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Benefits freeze and Brexit uncertainty continues to leave families on brink

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation warns that failure to scrap the cap’s final years will leave parents juggling bills just to survive

Families in poverty will have to endure another year of frozen benefits from today despite the rise in the cost of living.

More families are expected to fall into poverty as a result of the government’s continued freeze on benefits and tax credits until 2020, despite declaring austerity over.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Keeping benefits and tax credits frozen is unjustifiable. 4.1 million children are now locked in poverty – nearly three quarters of whom are in a working household.”

It’s not right that more parents will face impossible situations –  trying to decide which essential bills to pay and what they can cut back on to make it through each week

The freeze was introduced in April 2016 by then-Chancellor George Osborne, but between then and November 2018 JRF reckon that the cost of living for people on low incomes increased by £900.

Continuing the freeze for a fourth year will leave the poorest of families an average of £560 worse off, which is the equivalent of three months of food shopping for a low-income household. That is down to stagnation as benefits have not kept pace with the rising costs that families have to meet to keep themselves afloat.

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Robb said: “It’s not right that more parents will face impossible situations –  trying to decide which essential bills to pay and what they can cut back on to make it through each week.”

The decision to continue the freeze for another year will mean 10.7 million people in poverty missing out on £220 a year to help cover the rising cost of living. Another 200,000 people will also be locked into poverty

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation are one of 10 charities that wrote to the Chancellor Philip Hammond in February asking him to end the freeze.

According to the foundation, ending the freeze today would support 14 million people on low incomes and help a further 200,000 break free from poverty.

And it would be an especially crucial move with the uncertainty around Brexit still raging on with little indication of how it could affect families economically.

Robb said: “The risks of economic uncertainty should not be allowed to disproportionally affect those with no leeway in their finances. Ending the freeze is the right thing to do and would have helped working families stay afloat.”

As the government approaches it’s spending review, Robb wants it to look at how best to protect people from harm who are otherwise left with no anchor in what are uncertain times.