At Citizens Advice York we are growing ever more concerned about people in York falling through the cracks in society through no fault of their own, they simply cannot make ends meet.

Headline figures show that inflation is coming down, but food inflation is still high.

Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose rapidly in the year to September 2023 according to the latest Consumer Prices Index. It was down to 13.6 per cent in August after a recent high of 19.2 per cent in March, which was the highest annual rate seen for over 45 years.

Food and fuel prices are becoming unaffordable for many people in York.

At Citizens Advice we are campaigning to get the Government to raise benefits in line with inflation, but, as a bare minimum, the government must commit to raising benefits by the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

The impact of freezing benefits could be catastrophic. Based on Bank of England inflation forecasts, it will mean a £26 per month real-terms cut in the Universal Credit standard allowance, rising to £77 per month in the main award for a couple with two children.

Despite the government’s emphasis on encouraging benefit claimants to find work, freezing benefits could leave in-work Universal Credit claimants even worse off.

For instance, a couple, each working 12 hours per week, with two children, would see their main Universal Credit award fall by more than £40 per month in cash terms. And they would be more than £90 per month worse off in real terms, once the higher cost of living is taken into account.

For the people coming to us for debt advice and on benefits, their monthly shortfall would almost triple on average from around £30 to more than £80. Overall, the proportion of this group in a negative budget could jump from around half to almost two-thirds - unless they’re able to make further cuts to their essential living costs (i.e. buying less food or using less energy).

It’s no surprise that, in York, we’re on course to help more people with crisis support this year than any other year on record.

Year on year the number of people coming to us in desperation to feed their families is up 400 per cent. People like Becki (not her real name), a single parent of four children on Universal Credit who due to a sudden change in her living arrangements found herself with £5.16 in the bank, no credit on her gas or electricity cards for her prepayment meter, no food in the house and no nappies.

She and the children were sitting in a cold, dark house with nothing to eat. She came to us in distress for help, which we were able to provide in the form of a supermarket voucher and a fuel voucher which meant that they could eat hot food for the first time in several days.

There are three further points worth noting. First, even if benefits are uprated this year, it will not compensate for the long-term erosion of the value of benefits which has resulted from previous decisions to freeze rates or cap increases. But it will help to avoid situations like the one Becki found herself in. In York in 2023, do we want to see children going cold and hungry?

If you think the Government should take action on this, contact your MP and let them know how you feel about this. Politics is for the people, they want to hear your views!


  • Julian Sturdy, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA (Phone 020 7219 7199, email
  • Rachael Maskell, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA (Phone 020 7219 4525, email

Support Citizens Advice

Citizens Advice York is a small independent charity providing support and advice to York residents on all of the topics mentioned here.

Whilst City of York Council remain consistent and generous funders, we still have to raise £30,000 to £40,000 each and every year (and sometimes more) to cover the full cost of this important service.

We could not operate without the generosity of donations to fill this gap.

We are incredibly grateful for support, especially when everyone is feeling the effects of this current cost of living crisis.

We know that times are hard, but if you are able to help please donate so we can keep on helping others. You can make a one off donation or become a “Friend of Citizens Advice York” and make a monthly subscription. You will receive a quarterly newsletter and an invitation to our AGM and annual fundraising event.

To make a donation, visit Or, for details of how to become a Friend of Citizens Advice York, email or call 01904 623648.

Fiona McCulloch is chief officer of Citizens Advice York