U.K.’s inflation just hit a 40-year high, and the government warned that some may struggle to afford food and heating

May 19, 2022, 10:00 AM UTC

The U.K.’s inflation rate is the highest it’s been since 1982, and fears are growing that vulnerable groups will soon be unable to afford basic necessities.

Prices in the country in April were 9% higher than last year, according to the U.K.’s latest Consumer Price Index. It’s an increase of two percentage points from March prices, as inflation grips the country and sends prices for some critical commodities soaring.

The pace of U.K. inflation is even higher than the 8.3% rise seen in the U.S., where prices are also rising at the fastest rate in 40 years.

Food and fuel are the biggest inflation culprits, partly driven by the Ukraine War

More expensive fuel made up the majority of the increased prices in housing and household services,  accounting for nearly a third of the UK’s overall inflation rate last month. Low-income households, which spend a larger proportion of their income on utilities, are set to be hit hardest by the higher prices, according to the Office of National Statistics, which tallies the U.K.’s monthly inflation index.

Inflation for the nation’s poorest will be more severe than for middle-income and wealthy groups, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an economic research body. The institute predicted that while average inflation in the UK was at 9% in April, prices went up only 7.9% for the country’s wealthiest decile, and had gone up as much as 10.9% for the population’s poorest 10%.

“The warning lights could not be flashing brighter and the worst is yet to come,” said Claire Moriarty, chief executive of relief and public assistance organization Citizens Advice, at the end of April on the subject of rising fuel prices. “The government must bring in more support to help people cope with this mounting crisis.”

Moriarty stressed that the April surge in fuel costs would be the first of many, and economically vulnerable households could be in for a tough winter.

“This can have devastating consequences—parents with no hot water to bathe their children, families sleeping in their coats and people with chronic illnesses who can’t keep warm,” she said.

Food prices have risen 6.7% on the year, and also pose a large threat to low-income households. 

A quarter of U.K. residents are resorting to skipping meals to deal with inflated food prices, according to a poll released earlier this week. The absence of food imports from Ukraine and Russia have aggravated the U.K. food crisis, which Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey recently termed “apocalyptic.”

With government funding still lacking, the U.K.’s food crisis is even forcing some schools to prepare smaller portions or use cheaper ingredients in student lunches. “The cost has become astronomical,” one teacher in Leeds told The Guardian this week.

On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson assured lawmakers that the government would send relief to the households and institutions that needed it most, but did not provide a clear timeframe on any specific funding initiatives. 

“We will look at all the measures we will need to take to get people through to the other side,” he said.

Sign up for the Fortune Features email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews, and investigations.

Read More

CryptocurrencyInvestingBanksReal Estate