Government urged to ease impact of cost-of-living crisis

Charities have warned that millions struggling with food and energy costs are set to see benefits decrease in real terms

The government is coming under increasing pressure to do something to help to soften the blow of the cost-of-living crisis amid yet more warnings that millions of low-income families are at risk of sinking further into debt, hunger and poverty.

A group of over 50 charities has warned that an increase to benefits that isn’t equal to the increase in inflation would be “unthinkable” for households that are already struggling to deal with soaring food and energy costs and the increase to National Insurance.

These charities have urged the government to scrap plans to increase benefits by 3.1% – which they say would effectively be a second real-terms cut to benefits – and instead use the spring statement, next week, to help struggling families by pushing through a benefits increase that’s in line with inflation; which is projected to be at 7.25% by April.

Former prime minister, Gordon Brown, has also warned that anxiety over the cost-of-living crisis has replaced the pandemic as the biggest source of worry to the public.

He said, “The cost-of-living crisis has really taken over from the covid crisis as a real catastrophe for people”.

It’s thought that the government is reluctant to commit to any extra spending but is thought to acknowledge that concerns over the “starve or freeze” choices faced by low-income families in light of ever-increasing costs, of everything from food to fuel and beyond, are real.

An open letter, sent to the government and signed by many charities including the Child Poverty Action Group, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children UK warns that a 3.1% increase in benefits payments would effectively mean that families on benefits would be seeing the second real-terms cut to their Universal Credit in the last six months; following on from October’s removal of the £20 per week covid increase.

The letter said, “A second cut to benefits in six months is unthinkable. The government should increase benefits by at least 7% in April to match inflation, and ensure support for housing costs increases in line with rents. All those struggling, including families affected by the benefit cap, must feel the impact”.

Furthermore, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, around nine million low-income families will be £500 per year worse off if the planned increase of 3.1% goes ahead.

And, in further grim news for those on low incomes, the UK’s largest food bank network, the Trussell Trust, has said that in a recent survey, they found that 33% of Universal Credit claimants had gone at least one day without eating or restricting themselves to a single meal a day, in the past month. On top of this, a third of respondents also said that they’d gone more than four days without being able to heat their home over the past month.

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