Monday, September 02, 2019

Hurting the Poor

More than a third of people affected by the Conservative government’s freeze on benefits have less than £100 a month to live on after they have paid rent and bills for food, council tax and gas and electricity, according to the Citizens Advice service. Rates for benefits such as universal credit, tax credits and local housing allowance have been frozen since April 2016. This saved the Treasury £4.4bn last year alone but has inflicted a 6% real terms cut to benefits once inflation is taken into account.

Universal credit claimants were especially badly affected, with more than half reporting that they had gone without essentials such as food and toiletries.

Disabled people and those with children were most likely to have gone without essentials, with nearly half of both groups reporting that this had happened to them at least once in the past 12 months.

The charity said since the level of most benefits such as universal credit and tax credits was frozen in 2016, it was having “serious consequences”, with more than a quarter of people who claim benefits saying financial worries had made them feel lonely or isolated or affected their mental health.

Gillian Guy, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said: “The benefits system is designed to help people with their finances in times of need, but too often our frontline staff and volunteers see a different story. We’ve found people are losing sleep and unable to afford essential things like food and housing while receiving universal credit. It is totally unacceptable that our benefits system is not providing the financial safety net that people need.”

A recent MPs’ report warned that the “spectre of destitution” hung over the UK’s poorest neighbourhoods as a result of benefits failing to keep pace with living costs, leaving poorer families at risk of being unable to meet basic food and housing needs

The average low-income couple with children would be £200 a year worse off this year as a result of the benefit freeze and poorer single parents £250 a year worse off, the Resolution Foundation has estimated.
The freeze also contributed to a dramatic rise in child poverty in families with three or more children, up nine percent since 2013-14, and helped trap 4 million people overall in deep poverty, according to a recent report by the Social Metrics Commission.

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