Social Justice

Martin Lewis grills chancellor Rishi Sunak on why some people won't get additional cost of living support

Martin Lewis put the public's questions to the chancellor after he announced an emergency package of measures for the cost of living crisis.

A screenshot from a livestream video shows Rishi Sunak sitting in a warehouse with Martin Lewis in an onset picture

Martin Lewis quizzes Chancellor Rishi Sunak after he announced his emergency package.

Consumer expert Martin Lewis has taken chancellor Rishi Sunak to task over his cost of living support plan, questioning why some struggling families won’t receive specific additional support.

Speaking with Sunak live, Lewis said he’d been contacted by concerned members of the public asking why carers, and those who receive contribution-based employment and support allowance, had been left out of the package.

Reading out a message he’d received, Lewis said: “Please reconsider ignoring those on carer’s allowance in your help, yet again. Even for those of us who can work, our earnings are capped, our stress is high and our bills have gone up too.”

The package of support includes a one-off payment of £650 for eight million low income families who receive benefits including universal credit, but not for those who receive carer’s allowance.

“Our existing system is the best guide we have for those who are most in need,” Sunak said in response. “I accept there’s always going to be other people who feel they should get other support as well.

“With carer’s allowance, it’s not a means-test benefit, so it’s different. The majority of people on carer’s allowance also are in receipt or in a household with someone on means-tested benefits or a pensioner, which means they will get either the £650 or the £300 for pensioners.”

“In all cases, what I would say is we’ve also created a discretionary fund…for councils to help those that in particular circumstances need that little bit of extra help.”

Sunak said that people who need additional financial support but are not covered in the government measures announced should approach their council.

On behalf of disability charity Leonard Cheshire, Lewis also questioned whether the government still planned to remove 300,000 disabled people from the warm home discount scheme this autumn.

Under current plans, people claiming certain disability allowances will no longer be able to get a £150 warm home discount from the government. This means that some disabled people would gain £150 through the measures announced by Sunak, but lose £150 elsewhere.

Lewis questioned whether Sunak was “giving with one hand and taking with the other”.

Sunak responded by saying that while he’s not responsible for the warm home discount, he would commit to arranging a meeting between Leonard Cheshire and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is responsible for the scheme.

Other members of the public questioned what support was available for people who earn just above the eligibility threshold for universal credit.

“We are just over the threshold with a duel income. We’ve cut back on so much. We’re just scraping by and we get not government help,” one person said. “How does he expect working families to live and survive?”

Sunak said that the focus should be on “those most in need” and suggested that the increased national insurance threshold, set to come into force in July, would help people who have fallen through the cracks.

The chancellor’s cost of living measures have been brought in after Ofgem said on Tuesday the energy price cap would rise by a whopping 42 per cent in October, to £2,800.

New data by YouGov suggests more than one in five Britons are struggling to make ends meet in the face of the crisis, up from 10 per cent last year.

Half of households say their financial situation is worse now than it was last month.

Lewis has been vocal in his attempts to force the government into further action to support families struggling with the crisis. Earlier this month he spoke to The Big Issue about how he deals with people looking to him for help.

On Monday, Lewis spoke to Sunak over the phone to outline the measures he felt were needed to support those impacted most by rising food and energy costs.

His calls included targeted support for families supporting someone with disabilities and a “mid-year inflation catch up increase” in universal credit.

After the announcement, Lewis said Sunak “was listening” to his asks and that the package was better than he expected it to be.

“This looks to be a relatively generous package from a conservative government,” he said, in a video posted on Twitter. “I would have liked to see it earlier but better late than never.”

However, a Twitter poll posted by the consumer expert shortly after Sunak’s announcement suggested that the general public feel otherwise.

More than four in ten people responding to the poll said the measures don’t go far enough. At the time of writing, 23,000 people had responded to the poll.

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