The coalition's austerity agenda is forcing workers to turn to union welfare funds to help pay for basic living costs, public-sector union Unison revealed today.
Unison said it paid out a record £750,000 in 2011 to help public-sector workers heat their homes and feed their families.
The union said it had received a "massive" surge in the number of members applying for grants to help with the cost of living.
The figures revealed the true cost of Tory attacks on the welfare state, which are throwing Britain back to a time when unions provided support for working communities.
In total 10 per cent more cash was paid out of Unison's welfare fund to hard-hit workers and their families this year, compared with 2011.
That included a staggering 400 per cent increase in the number of applications for help with heating.
And Unison officials also reported that public-sector workers were increasingly turning to food banks to put food on the table.
Unison's welfare fund was previously reserved to provide holidays for low-paid workers and their families.
But the fund is now increasingly being used to help pay for heating, food and school uniforms.
General secretary Dave Prentis said it was "heartbreaking" to read applications to the welfare fund.
"Some can't even afford the weekly shop and have to rely on their families for help with groceries," he said.
"Parents say they dread the bill for school uniforms when the new school year begins.
"In some cases the cost runs to hundreds of pounds and they just can't afford it.
"They've lost working tax credits and it has pushed them over the edge. The stress of the struggle to make ends meet is making many sick."
Mr Prentis told the Con-Dem coalition to "get real" about the crisis it was creating.
"The government urgently needs a plan for growth and jobs in 2013, not simply to be ploughing ahead regardless with an economic plan that is not working."
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.
Donate to the Fighting Fund here
Foreign Minister Alistair Burt's admission that the Cameron government has "supported" a survey of attitudes to US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas amounts to a tacit admission of British involvement.
As Britain faces a new housing crisis we can learn from an occasion when tenants banded together to beat their landlord - and won new council housing
Iain Duncan Smith's brainchild came into force at the end of last month. It's bad news for almost everyone