CHARITIES have called for benefits to be raised in line with inflation after the Consumer Prices Index showed the figure had reached a 40-year high.

Inflation reached 10.1% in September, compared with 9.9% in August, with the increase driven by food prices.

The former chancellor, Kwasi Kwarteng, said a decision on benefits would be announced on October 31, but it is not clear whether Jeremy Hunt will be sticking to this timetable.

Charities, including Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), said targeted support should come quicker than April when changes in benefits are usually made.

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CAS chief executive Derek Mitchell said: “These figures are a stark reminder that people are finding it harder than ever to put food on the table and keep their homes warm.

“Families everywhere are really struggling with stagnant incomes as prices soar.

“The Citizens Advice network can offer help and support, but what is really needed here is some kind of intervention by the Government to help people through this crisis.

“This level of inflation is not normal, and it needs a better-than-normal response.

“The most positive thing the UK Government could do right now is to commit to raising benefits to at least match inflation.

“That would give people on the lowest incomes a measure of security, and I hope the Chancellor will make this commitment in his statement at the end of the month.”

Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save the Children, said: “The news inflation has risen to 10.1% heaps yet more anxiety onto low-income families, who are already on the brink.

“As well as rising bills, rent and transport costs, these inflation figures mean an average family of four is spending over £850 extra per year on groceries than last year. This is simply unacceptable.

“Parents we support have broken down in tears when opening their empty cupboards, and many have taken drastic measures – including skipping their own meals – to feed and clothe their children.”

She added: “The UK Government has an opportunity to provide some much-needed reassurance to help parents and their children through this crisis and must commit to uprating benefits in line with inflation right now.

“It cannot wait until April – targeted support for low-income families is needed now to ensure children do not go hungry or cold this winter.”

The UK Government has not said when asked when its decision on benefits will be announced.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “September’s rise in the rate of inflation was particularly driven by rising food prices and that will be of concern for many households and businesses during this cost of living crisis.

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“It reinforces the need for the UK Government, which holds most of the key policy levers needed to address the issue, to take urgent action and provide further targeted support to those households and businesses that are struggling most in the current crisis.

“We urgently need clarity on what support for energy prices will be available after April.

“The Scottish Government is working hard within its limited powers and finite budget to support people, businesses, public services and the economy.

“On Thursday [today], the First Minister will host a second summit with energy companies and advice organisations to discuss progress and identify any further action we can take to support households and businesses with the energy cost crisis.

“Deputy First Minister John Swinney will report the outcome of the Emergency Budget Review shortly.”