Social Justice

Hunt must raise benefits in line with inflation, urge campaigners

The chancellor has been urged to make sure people receiving social support payments are able to pay their bills.

The Chancellor Jeremy Hunt speaks to Times Radio ahead of the Autumn Statement on 17 November 2022. Photo by Zara Farrar / HM Treasury

The government has again been urged to raise benefits in line with inflation in the Autumn Statement due tomorrow from Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt.

UK inflation jumped to a 41-year high of 11.1 per cent in October, the ONS announced today. Driven by a debilitating rise in food and energy prices, it is set to hit Britain’s poorest even harder going into an already tough winter.

In the fight against economic uncertainty and rising prices, Hunt has said his Autumn Statement will cut public spending en masse and raise taxes for everybody in a move he has already said will be “painful”.

But campaigners have warned leaders that if benefits are not increased, it will result in a real-term cut to income and tipping more families into poverty and damaging the long-term prospects for households and the country on the whole.

Michael Clarke, director of impact and innovation at poverty charity Turn2us said: “every day, our helpline advisers hear from parents who are skipping meals to try and keep their children fed or making impossible choices between paying rocketing food bills or rent.”

Prices are rising even faster for low-income households since the costs of essentials are soaring at higher rates. Gas prices have increased by 36.9 per cent this year. Electricity prices also went up by 16.9 per cent while food and drink prices are also up by 16.4 per cent. Low-income households typically spend more on these items.

Rachelle Earwaker, senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “The Prime Minister claims fairness and compassion will be at the heart of his Government’s decisions tomorrow but, as these alarming figures show, struggling families will need more than well wishes this winter.”

In a series of tweets, she urged leaders to bring the planned benefits increase forward to help people over winter, saying that April next year is too late. “It’s needed now so families can afford to eat, shower & stay warm.”

Campaigners are also worried about those who are most vulnerable going into the winter, including Britain’s children and elderly population.

Head of child poverty at Save the Children, Becca Lyon, would like to see the government recommit to increasing benefits in line with inflation as well. She stresses, though, that the 4 million children who live in families supported by Universal Credit are in need of more urgent support. “We want to see an increase in the child element of Universal Credit by £10 per child per week as part of a ‘children’s cost of living package’ to help those on the lowest incomes.”

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, is also worried about the UK’s elderly population going into the winter. “Without determined government intervention they are at risk of deep hardship like nothing we’ve seen in this country for many years,” she says, “we have everything crossed for Thursday”.

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