DEMAND AN END TO POVERTY THIS GENERAL ELECTION
TAKE ACTION
Politics

Millions being spent to store wasted PPE could ease the cost of living crisis. Here’s how

While ministers spend £7m a month on storage for PPE, millions of people face a cost of living crisis. Here's how the money could help

cost of living

Around half of PPE in storage is estimated to have an expiry date within the next six months. DFID/Flickr

While families across the UK struggle to cover the soaring cost of living, the government has been spending £7m a month storing wasted PPE.

Research by the National Audit Office revealed that billions of taxpayers’ money went on PPE at the start of the pandemic – often procured through ministers’ private contacts – which is either not fit for use or still in storage.

It means around 14.1 billion pieces of equipment – ten per cent of the total PPE purchased by the government – are costing the country nearly £85m per year just to store, roughly 3.6 billion of which are not suitable to be used by frontline services. Around half the equipment in storage will expire within the next six months.

The figures were released as campaigners criticised the government for offering too little support to low- and middle-income households which are toiling as the costs of food, energy and fuel skyrocket.

So what could ministers be spending £85m a year on instead?

Cavity wall insulation for 250,000 of the UK’s worst-off households

UK houses are the least energy-efficient homes in Europe. Yet the research is clear – building a sustainable future, both for the planet and for people on low incomes, means upgrading homes across the country, fast, to reduce reliance on energy to stay warm.

It costs around £345 for a professional to install cavity wall insulation in a flat. The government could cover the cost for 250,000 of the country’s most disadvantaged households, saving them an average £300 per year on energy bills.

Give people on legacy benefits the money they were owed before the cost of living crisis

When Covid-19 hit the UK, ministers increased universal credit payments by £20 per week before cutting the benefit back to pre-pandemic levels in October last year.

But people on so-called legacy benefits – the social security payments which pre-date universal credit, such as employment and support allowance – didn’t receive the increase. Most people on legacy benefits are disabled or long-term sick and face higher than average living costs to stay safe during lockdown.

In February, the High Court ruled against a team of lawyers and claimants who said the decision not to also increase legacy benefits was discriminatory, and then rejected their appeal to overturn the decision. It means the solicitors are now taking their case to the Court of Appeal itself.

With £85m to spend, ministers could give £1,500 backdated payments to 57,000 people – more than a quarter of total legacy benefit claimants – to cover the amount they missed out on because they weren’t on universal credit during the pandemic and give disadvantaged people a boost as the cost of living soars.

Extend the warm home discount to 607,000 households

The Warm Home Discount is a scheme giving people in poverty £140 off their energy bills in the colder months.

But with campaigners warning many are already having to choose between food and heating – and experts concerned the energy price cap could rise again this autumn – the government could spend £85m on extending the scheme to another 607,000 in-need families this winter.

Alternatively, £85m would help 123,000 households by covering the £697 extra set to be placed on direct debit energy bills from April 1 after the energy price cap hike.

Prevent cost of living pay cut for NHS staff

The cost of living crisis isn’t just driven by higher costs, but by stagnating wages which are lagging behind the real cost of daily essentials.

Workers across many sectors face a real-terms pay cut in 2022 between record-high inflation, a 10 per cent national insurance increase, a council tax hike and several other jumps in unavoidable bills.

One of the country’s ongoing pay disputes is between the government and its healthcare workers. Trade unions condemned ministers for offering nurses a pay rise of just three per cent this year, which the Royal College of Nursing warned means a real-terms pay cut for thousands.

A band five nurse with seven years’ experience will earn £400 less in 2022 than they did in 2021. The government could use the money spent on PPE storage just to maintain real-terms pay levels for 212,500 nurses.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Wealth tax, tuition fees and vow to 'fix broken Britain': Key takeaways from the Green Party manifesto
General election 2024

Wealth tax, tuition fees and vow to 'fix broken Britain': Key takeaways from the Green Party manifesto

Rishi Sunak sparks hunt for world's tiniest violin after saying he went without Sky TV as a child
Rishi Sunak works at his desk
General election 2024

Rishi Sunak sparks hunt for world's tiniest violin after saying he went without Sky TV as a child

Taxes, benefit cuts and bad jokes: Key takeaways from the Tory general election manifesto launch
rishi sunak
General Election 2024

Taxes, benefit cuts and bad jokes: Key takeaways from the Tory general election manifesto launch

Lib Dems hailed for putting NHS and social care at 'heart' of election with 'welcome' manifesto
General election 2024

Lib Dems hailed for putting NHS and social care at 'heart' of election with 'welcome' manifesto

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know