Politics

Election 2024: Starmer, Sunak, Swinney and Davey tell us how they'd end Britain's poverty crisis

Keir Starmer, Rishi Sunak, Ed Davey and John Swinney answered our questions on poverty. Here's the result

Sunak, Davey, Swinney and Starmer

Throughout this election period we have challenged party leaders to get to grips with the most insidious issue corroding Britain today – poverty.

In our Big Issue Blueprint for Change we set out key policies we believe will help lift millions out of the
deep poverty trap they are in and help build to a better future.

In recent weeks, more than 12,000 Big Issue readers and backers have signed a petition to demand an end to poverty following the 4 July vote. This week our ambassadors Daniel Mays, Christopher Eccleston and George Clarke joined the push.

We have taken this call to the two men who are fighting to be the next prime minster, Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer, and to John Swinney and Sir Ed Davey, the two other leaders likely to see their parties command the next largest collection of seats in Westminster after the election.

This, then, is the state we will be in.

Will you commit to investing in people affected by poverty so we can end poverty once and for all? And given that 14 million people are struggling to meet their most basic needs, including four million children, will you promise them that you will lift them out of poverty?

Keir Starmer, Labour

Poverty is a moral stain on our society. The last Labour government lifted over half a million children out of poverty and the next Labour government will build on that legacy.

We’ll have an ambitious, wide ranging child poverty strategy, we’ll give all children in primary school free breakfast, protect renters from arbitrary eviction, slash fuel poverty and ensure work is decent and secure for all.

We will deliver the change our country needs, with an ambitious agenda to bring hope and opportunity to the next generation, and ensure everyone is better off with Labour.

Rishi Sunak, Conservative

Work is the best way out of poverty, as Big Issue shows, and our welfare reforms have helped around four million more people move into work since 2010. We have brought child poverty down since 2010 and reduced the number of children living in workless households by around a third.

As part of our clear plan, we have significantly expanded free childcare for working parents so that parents can go back to work or increase their hours. This is so important because children living in households where all adults work are around five times less likely to be in absolute poverty than those living in workless households.

We have also provided a £108bn cost of living support package over the last few years to help households through the period of high inflation caused by Putin’s war, preventing 1.3 million people from falling into poverty.

John Swinney, SNP

I have made the mission to eradicate child poverty in Scotland my top priority as first minister and I use that term deliberately. I am under no illusions that this will be an easy task – it will not be – which is why I will always say it is a challenge, particularly under devolved powers only, but there can be no acceptable number of children living in poverty.

Despite the challenges of UK austerity, Brexit and the cost of living crisis, the SNP in government delivered an estimated £1.4bn to benefit children in low-income households in 2023-24. The Scottish government has made sure no one in Scotland has to pay for the Conservatives’ bedroom tax and we will spend £90m this year alone on that and support for people facing the Tories’ benefit cap too. That is millions every year we could use to tackle poverty.

Ed Davey, Liberal Democrats

We really want to tackle povertyand our first big, costed proposal is on ending the two-child limit [on child benefit]. I think most commentators agree that’s the fastest way of tackling some of the poverty you’ve got. It’s not the only thing you can do, but I think it’s a really big, important start. Lifting the two-child limit will particularly help children.

There are other groups I want to focus on. You’ve probably seen me doing a lot on carers. One of the main reasons we think we need to be more generous to carers – I’m talking about unpaid carers now – is because a lot of family carers are living in poverty. They often lose one or two incomes because someone becomes ill or disabled, and the £81.90 a week you get on the carer’s allowance is a pittance, it’s the lowest benefit. We want to increase that immediately by £20 a week – that’s over £1,000 a year. We want to increase the earnings limit so that carers who do a little bit of part-time work alongside care don’t get hit.

Do you have a story to tell or opinions to share about this? Get in touch and tell us moreBig Issue exists to give homeless and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy of the magazine or get the app from the App Store or Google Play.

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