Social Justice

Anti-poverty organisations demand 'direct support' for UK's poorest households

More than 50 organisations have urged new Prime Minister Liz Truss to do more to support struggling households in the cost of living crisis

Prime minister Liz Truss

Liz Truss. Image: Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street

More than 50 of the UK’s best known faith groups, charities, trade unions and poverty-fighting organisations have written to new Prime Minister Liz Truss demanding more support for the UK’s poorest households as winter approaches.

As energy bills and inflation continue to rise, signatories of the open letter have urged that an increase in poverty is “not inevitable, if government, business and civil society recognise that this is an emergency and act now”.

“It is the urgent, moral responsibility of the Prime Minister to ensure that people on the lowest incomes have enough to live in the months ahead,” reads the letter signed by leaders from organisations including the Child Poverty Action Group, National Education Union, Methodist Church, Hindu Council and Big Issue, a core member of the alliance involved in authoring the letter.

“Spiralling costs are affecting everyone, but for those who were already fighting to keep their heads above water this winter’s challenges will be a matter of life and death.”

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In September, Truss announced plans to freeze energy bills from October 1 at £2,500 for the average household — double their cost in October 2021 — and is widely expected to announced tax cuts for the wealthier parts of society in the hope it will boost growth.

Economists and commentators have questioned the effectiveness of the plans, however, warning that the energy bill freeze could cost more than £100bn and other measures will either take too long to bear fruit or are not guaranteed to support the poorest at all.

“Low income households need targeted financial support which takes into account family size and need,” continues the letter,” is distributed quickly and in amounts large enough to enable families to live decently this winter and beyond.”

The government announced one-off payments to support households through the cost of living crisis in the spring, before inflation topped 10 per cent for the first time in decades and the full extent of runaway energy costs was apparent.

Economic research accompanying the letter indicates households on universal credit will need an extra £1,391 over the next six months “to stay warm and fed”.

More than one in five people were living in poverty at the start of 2022, a number expected to be higher still as the nights turn cold.

“We believe that concerted action can turn the tide on poverty, see us through this winter and put us on the path to a poverty free Britain,” the letter concludes. “The government has the tools to deliver this at their disposal, and they must use them now.”

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The full letter and list of signatories reads:

As faith groups, charities, trade unions and front-line organisations we have seen the cost of living emergency escalating not only in the statistics but in the lives of people we meet day to day, in foodbanks, debt centres and in our places of worship. The least well off in our communities are facing the sharpest end of this crisis, and without substantial support will be dragged into destitution.

It is the urgent, moral responsibility of the Prime Minister to ensure that people on the lowest incomes have enough to live in the months ahead. Spiralling costs are affecting everyone, but for those who were already fighting to keep their heads above water this winter’s challenges will be a matter of life and death.

The Energy Price Guarantee announced on 8th September, whilst welcome, hasn’t gone far enough. Analysis published today by Prof Donald Hirsch indicates that the average family of four receiving Universal Credit will still need an additional £1,391 over the next six months to stay warm and fed. Low income households need targeted financial support which takes into account family size and need, is distributed quickly and in amounts large enough to enable families to live decently this winter and beyond.

Increases in poverty and destitution because of this crisis are not inevitable, if government, business and civil society recognise that this is an emergency and act now. We believe that concerted action can turn the tide on poverty, see us through this winter and put us on the path to a poverty free Britain. The government has the tools to deliver this at their disposal, and they must use them now.

Signed by:

Rabbi Robyn Ashworth-Steed, Chair, Tzelem: The Rabbinic and Cantorial Call for Social and Economic Justice in the UK

Rabbi Charley Baginsky, Chief Executive Officer, Liberal Judaism

Revd Fiona Bennett, Moderator of General Assembly, United Reformed Church

Rabbi Rebecca Birk, Co-Chair, Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors

Anna Bland, Team Leader, Leeds Sanctuary

Anthony Boateng, Vice-President of the Conference, The Methodist Church in Britain

Dr Nicola Brady, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

Rabbi Janet Burden, Rabbi Emerita, Ealing Liberal Synagogue

Heidi Chow, Executive Director, Debt Justice

Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty

Kevin Courtney and Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretaries, National Education Union

Sister Colette Cronin, Leader, Institute of Our Lady of Mercy

Colin Date, Acting Chair, Christian Concern for One World

Sister Lynda Dearlove rsm, CEO, women@thewell

Claire Donovan, Head of Research, Policy & Campaigns, End Furniture Poverty

Bishop Terry Drainey, Chair and Bishop, Catholic Social Action Network & R.C. Diocese of Middlesbrough

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group

Ben Gilchrist, Chief Executive, Caritas Shrewsbury

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Senior Rabbi, The Ark Synagogue

Rev James Green, Executive Director, Together Liverpool

Revd. Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Director, René Cassin

Revd Ruth Harvey, Leader, The Iona Community

Joseph Howes, CEO, Buttle UK

Imran Hussain, Director of Policy & Campaigns, Action for Children

Rabbi Richard Jacobi, Minister to the congregation, East London and Essex Liberal Synagogue

Rabbi Neil Janes, Rabbi, South Bucks Jewish Community (constituent of Liberal Judaism)

The Most Reverend Andrew John, Archbishop of Wales, The Church in Wales

Rabbi Gabriel Kanter-Webber, Minister, Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue

Mr. Rajnish Kashyap MCICM, General Secretary, Hindu Council UK

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance

Paul Kissack, Chief Executive, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Rabbi Monique Mayer, Bristol and West Progressive Jewish Congregation

Gareth McNab, Head of External Affairs, Christians Against Poverty

Paul McNamee, Editor, The Big Issue

Rabbi Lea Mühlstein, Senior Rabbi, The Ark Synagogue

Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain

Patrick O’Dowd, Director, Caritas Diocese of Salford

Helen O’Shea, National President of St Vincent de Paul Society

Emma Revie, CEO, The Trussell Trust

Father Dominic Robinson SJ, Chair, Archdiocese of Westminster Justice and Peace

Revd Paul Rochester, General Secretary, Free Churches Group

Revd. Ian Rutherford, Chair, Greater Manchester Food Security Action Network and City Centre Minister, Methodist Central Hall Manchester.

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive, National Energy Action

Mr Paul Southgate, Chair of Trustees, The National Justice and Peace Network

Most Reverend Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, and Primus, Scottish Episcopal Church

Anna Taylor, Executive Director, The Food Foundation

The Revd. Graham Thompson, President of the Methodist Conference, The Methodist Church of Britain

The Reverend James Tout, Chaplain to the Archbishop of Wales, The Church in Wales

Fr Adrian Tuckwell, Caritas Hexham and Newcastle

Jo Wittams, Co-Executive Director, The Equality Trust”

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