One in six not able to buy essential food, ONS survey finds

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Some 43% of Brits said they saw less variety in shops. Photo: PA

A majority of Brits saw their cost of living increase due to the pandemic and one in six said they were unable to buy essential food items due to shortages in the last two weeks of November, new data revealed.

The Office for National Statistics' report on the social impact of COVID-19 showed over a third (36%) of adults reported experiencing goods shortages in the past two weeks. This was down from 41% in the weeks prior.

Some 43% said they noticed less variety in the shops, while 20% said they could not find the item they needed, nor could they find a replacement.

Meanwhile two thirds of people (65%) said their cost of living has risen in the past month.

Around 87% said the price of food has risen, 77% said that the cost of energy bills is up, and 76% found that fuel prices are higher.

A rise in energy bills has hit 81% of those aged 30 to 49 as well as 78% of those over 70.

“The rise in energy prices in particular are eye-watering for us all,” said Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown.

Read more: Selfridges to be sold to Thai retail giant for £4bn

“But often older people feel higher bills and food prices more keenly because they tend to make up a larger percentage of their spending.”

She said the fact they are often on a fixed income can also mean they’re less financially resilient, because they have less wiggle room in their budgets.

Moreover, she said that “in many cases, the full impact” of energy price hikes hasn’t hit yet because those who are on fixed rate energy deals have been protected from the rises so far, and those on variable deals have protection from the energy price cap.

“The full impact will only really be felt in April when the energy price cap rises. At that stage, the spending squeeze is going to be even more painful for millions of us.”

She also said “the squeezed middle” is under pressure, with more mouths to feed and more people living in their home at this stage. But she said Brits are doing an impressive job of managing these higher costs.

Only 16% said they have had to borrow more money or use more credit than usual in the last month compared with a year ago — down from 18% a month earlier.

Watch: Should I move in with my parents to save money?

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