Benefits payments need to rise in line with inflation now or low income families may not be able to afford to pay rent or feed their children this winter, charities have told the new Prime Minister.
A letter signed by over 100 organisations committed to ending poverty urged Rishi Sunak to honour the promise he made this spring to increase benefits in line with inflation, and to do so now rather than waiting until April.
In May, Mr Sunak – then Chancellor – told the Commons benefits will be uprated as usual in April by September’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation figure, which was over 10%.
There have since been reports that the Government has considered rowing back on this commitment. However, analysis has shown that only uprating benefits at the rate of earnings (roughly 6%) would leave the PM responsible for the biggest permanent real-terms cut to the basic rate of benefits in a single year.
Food prices are now rising faster than at any point since 1980 and bearing the brunt of this are low income families. Charities, trade unions, religious groups and other organisations are therefore now saying this uprating urgently needs to be brought forward to support households through the winter.
They say current benefit rates leave households unable to afford the essentials, with debt, homelessness and foodbank use all on the rise even before this current cost-of-living crisis.
Conservative politicians including incoming Department of Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride have supported benefits rising in line with inflation to protect those most at risk as the cost-of-living crisis continues.
Polling by YouGov for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation earlier this month found that 61% of the public agreed that benefits should go up in line with inflation, including half (49%) of 2019 Conservative voters.
JRF Senior Policy Advisor Iain Porter said:
“Families on low incomes desperately need stability and certainty, as they try to afford the essentials, pay their rent, and keep food on the table. Rishi Sunak personally pledged to go ahead with the usual uprating of benefits in line with inflation, and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt promised last week that he would act with compassion and protect the most vulnerable.
“The new government must show it is as serious about protecting its citizens from harm as it is about calming the markets. It can do this by moving quickly to take away a huge source of anxiety for millions and confirming that benefits will be uprated as soon as possible in line with September’s inflation rate of 10.1% – a position the public agree with.”
Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty for Save the Children UK, said:
“Politicians shouldn’t break their promises to children growing up in the poorest households, and the inability to commit to raising benefits in line with inflation risks doing just that.
“In his former job as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak was clear benefits would increase by inflation as normal which gave those on the lowest incomes much needed reassurance to help them through the cost-of-living crisis. Families haven’t forgotten this, and they depend on a fair rise in income for stability in frightening times.
“Children will suffer a lower standard of living and drop into poverty if the Prime Minister does not stick to his promise.”
On Thursday 26 May 2022, then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the Commons “As ever, we keep all situations under review with regard to providing support to households. We know, however, that the most vulnerable are likely, subject to the review of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to see a significant increase in welfare and pension payments next year, based on September’s CPI, which will be significantly in excess of the inflation forecast for that year” https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-05-26/debates/00D0B309-467C-4…
Incoming Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride spoke about benefits uprating in the Commons here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-05-17/debates/66D4E191-DD58-4…
The poll was of 1600 people across the UK and was carried out online by YouGov during the Conservative Party conference on 4th and 5th October.
Read the letter and see the full list of supporting organisations here.