Here is what Michael Fawole, Director of the North East Law Centre, told the Access to Justice Foundation about the impact that the cost of living crisis is already having on advice agencies…


We have seen an increase in demand of approximately 40% across our welfare rights projects and majority of the enquiries have related to money worries due to the rising cost of living.  Scarily, we are projecting a sharper increase from mid-September when some of the additional measures including support with energy costs will cease unless new forms of support are implemented, and also with the start of the new school year and associated costs for parents.

More concerning for us is the increase in demand from some of our more vulnerable client groups particularly the elderly, the disabled and those suffering poor mental health.  We are now supporting more elderly folks without a state pension (some migrants) and those with small state pensions to increase their income with pension credit in order to meet their rising costs.

There has been a marked increase in demand for support with Personal Independence Payment (PIP) applications. The application process is complex and we are already inundated with demand for support from claimants whose PIP payments are due to expire over the coming months, because they are extremely worried that they will not be able to cope if their payments were to cease.  We and our mental health project partners are projecting a significant increase in PIP applications over the coming months as more people suffer mental health breakdown due to the impact of the cost of living crisis. Our partners reliably inform us that the indicators are emerging daily.

Significant backlogs in processing claims at the Department for Work and Pensions and at appeal tribunals remain following the Covid-19 pandemic. This has compounded the cost of living crisis for a lot of our clients because they will have no steady income until their claims are processed or appeals heard.  Most of our clients in this category are totally reliant on foodbanks and other non-statutory support, and require a formal referral from our service. More importantly, they will require support from our specialist advisers if their benefit claims are subsequently refused or appeals unsuccessful.

Most of our service users are in a state of panic in anticipation of what is to come in October when energy costs are projected to increase again, and our advicelines are busy with enquiries about what support will be available and how to access it. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide the assurance that most seek at this point, and more crucially, we may not be in a position to support them without adequate funding.