Page last updated at 06:56 GMT, Saturday, 26 April 2008 07:56 UK

Pleas for poverty grants soaring

A man and a woman walking with a child
The cost of food, fuel and utilities has increased in recent months

A charity which helps people facing severe financial hardship says it has seen a dramatic rise in the number of requests for help.

Elizabeth Finn Care spends 4m each year in grants to help people avoid falling into poverty.

Requests for grants have increased by 400% in the past six weeks, it says.

The charity says the rise is caused by the increasing costs of fuel, food and bills, which means many families are struggling to make ends meet.

Brian Clover, director of casework at Elizabeth Finn Care, told BBC Radio 5 Live that more young families were contacting them than ever before.


A family works out their weekly budget

They are seeking small weekly grants to help pay for basic needs or one-off sums for essential items such as washing machines or refrigerators.

Mr Clover said: "The last six to eight weeks has seen a really significant increase.

"It's basic stuff. It's the price of food, the price of petrol, it's gas and electricity bills, and it's tipping them over the edge."

No savings

The government had pledged to halve the number of children living in poverty from 3.4m in 1998 to 1.7m in 2010.

Progress has been made and ministers say they are on track to meet the target.

But critics say the economic climate means the outlook for families is more gloomy than before.

Anne Longfield, from charity 4Children, said severe poverty amounted to living on about 7,000 a year or 19 a day.

"About 84% of families in severe poverty say they can't make regular savings," Ms Longfield told BBC Radio 5 Live.

"It also means about three quarters of them can't replace any furniture, most of them can't have a holiday and about a fifth of them can't go on any school trips.

"It's really that issue of not being able to afford the basics of life."

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