January 27, 2023

A leading charity has warned that the UK’s poorest families are in dire need and has urged ministers to provide additional financial support immediately.

Gwen Hines, the CEO of Save the Children, told the Guardian that serious financial problems would only begin in January as many families are already unable to afford basic goods.

The dire message came when a YouGov poll conducted for the Resolution Foundation found that 31% of households in the bottom fifth of earners said they significantly reduced the amount they spend on gifts, holiday meals and other seasonal treats . That compared to 16% among the top fifth of earners.

Hines said: “Many families in the UK are currently living in appalling conditions and we know that Christmas and the New Year will be particularly difficult. We are concerned that January will be the time when the financial problems really start to bite.”

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has announced that benefits will be increased by 10.1% in April, in line with inflation, and that low-income families will have to pay £900 towards living expenses, in addition to the £650 paid in October and November.

Save the Children, however, called on the government to give more support now to help families through a harsh winter.

Hines said benefits to low-income parents should have an urgent increase of £20 a week, which would have “a significant impact on children’s welfare right now that can be sustained well into the future”.

Save the Children, better known for its work in developing countries, made 2,344 direct grants to low-income families in the UK last year.

The charity said these early s grants, first introduced during the Covid pandemic, have been used by parents – some of whom are working – to provide food, warm clothes and even beds for their children. to buy. The charity has spent more than £1 million in payments in the past year, which typically amount to £400.

With skyrocketing fuel bills expected to make the next three months particularly difficult, Save the Children recently increased the budget for the program by 25%.

Hines said: “The UK government needs to do much more to support those on the lowest incomes as our scholarship scheme continues to demonstrate the acute need for parents both in and out of work. Waiting until April 2023 for new living expenses payments is not acceptable.”

Sheerness coast
Sheerness in Kent is one of the poorest towns in the UK. Photo: Andy Hall/The Observer

Save the Children employees who administered the grants reported that families struggled to afford fruits and vegetables or warm winter coats for children. A recent recipient had moved into social housing but had been unable to furnish the home, leaving the ground floor unfurnished.

The Resolution Foundation survey, conducted by YouGov of working families, found that the lowest earners in the UK are not the only ones tightening their belts. Overall, 64% of all workers surveyed said they would try to rein in the cost of Christmas this year amid widespread predictions that the economy is sliding into recession.

Emily Fry, an economist at the think tank, told the Guardian: “Low-income families have faced some of the toughest cost-of-living pressures this year, from rising food prices to utility bills, and it is taking its toll this Christmas.

“The government has provided significant targeted support to vulnerable families and should continue to do so as they will continue to be at the heart of the crisis next year.”

She added that family finances were already strained by the Covid pandemic, leaving poorer families little room for maneuver. “People who already entered the pandemic with less savings, less buffer to absorb unexpected shocks, now face a second crisis.”

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “Families have struggled through 12 years of conservative mismanagement of the economy. This shows how much families are now plunged into hardship as they crashed the economy in 12 weeks of chaos.

The government expects to spend an extraordinary £58bn on cost-of-living support in the current financial year, including the Energy Price Guarantee, and a further £24bn in 2023.

That’s more than the £70bn cost of the Covid furlough scheme, which paid millions of workers’ wages during the pandemic, but charities and think tanks have repeatedly warned it is still insufficient to protect the poorest families from significant hardship.

In 2020, Rishi Sunak, then Chancellor, increased the universal credit by £20 a week across the board during the pandemic, but the increase was withdrawn in October 2021 following protests from think tanks and charities.

Inflation in the UK fell slightly in November, but remains close to a 40-year high of 10.7% on the consumer price index.

Citizens Advice recently reported that they had referred the equivalent of 3.5 people per minute to a food bank in the first week of December – more than in any other week on record.

A government spokesman said: “Our priority will always be to support the most vulnerable and we recognize that people are struggling with rising prices. That’s why we’re protecting millions of the most deprived with at least £1,200 in direct aid this year. including £400 for energy costs.

“Our immediate support also includes our Energy Price Guarantee, which saves an average household around £900 in winter, and our Household Support Fund helps people with essential costs.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *