Rishi Sunak has said the country should be “grateful” for austerity – in the same week he cuts millions of incomes by £1,040 per year.
Speaking at the Conservative Party conference, the chancellor defended government plans to cut universal credit by £20 per week and increase national insurance for struggling families, asking: “Is the answer to their hopes and dreams just to increase their benefits?”
But the cut – which has now been applied to most universal credit claims despite being officially scheduled for October 6 – risks pushing half a million more people into poverty, including 200,000 children, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF).
Labour’s plan to strengthen the UK’s social security system is “a desperately sad vision for our future”, Sunak added.
He repeated the government’s firmly-held stance on helping people on low incomes by getting them into work rather than increasing benefit payments. He said “we should all be grateful” for how the Conservatives have handled the economy for the past decade.
The majority of UK people living in poverty already live in working households, the Institute for Public Policy Research said earlier this year. Around 40 per cent of universal credit claimants already have jobs but are trapped below the breadline by low pay, unreliable hours, expensive childcare and soaring living costs.