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Gordon Brown urges Government to do more for families struggling with cost-of-living crisis

08 August 2022

The larger the household, the bigger the loss, report finds

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THE extra £1200 the Government is paying to people on low incomes to support their households through the cost-of-living crisis is not enough, and more drastic measures should be considered. This was the conclusion of a report by Professor Donald Hirsch of Loughborough University, published on Sunday.

The report, Is cost of living support enough?, was supported by the former Chancellor and Prime Minister Gordon Brown, alongside 56 faith groups and representatives, charities, and politicians.

It analyses the incomes of the poorest families in the UK against current living costs, and how far they are offset by the additional government support. Low-income families that receive Universal Credit (UC) had been dealt a triple blow, the report says: they had lost the £20 uplift in UC during the pandemic; the 3.1 per cent uprating of benefits was well below the nine per cent rise in inflation; and there would be a further rise in the energy cap this October.

The £400 reduction in energy bills, the £150 reduction in council tax, and two lump-sum payments totalling £650 from the Government did not offset these, the report says. “Across households, the extra help falls short of compensating the losses.”

An out-of-work couple with two children would lose about £1300 a year — £1600 if higher inflation was considered (based on the current predicted £800 rise in the energy cap, which may yet increase).

The larger the household, the bigger the loss, the report finds. “A couple with three children is losing almost as much again from rising prices as they did from last year’s cut in the UC uplift. Flat-rate payments undermine UC’s purpose of basing payments on household size.”

It continues: “On top of these setbacks, the escalating cost of food and petrol will cause further pain for families if they have to wait the usual year for the next inflation-based upratings, given the unusual speed at which these costs are rising this year.”

Listed supporters of the report include the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler; the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Most Revd Mark Strange; and the Archbishop of Wales, the Most Revd Andrew John. The Methodist Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the United Reformed Church, the Baptist Union, and the Iona Community are also represented. Christian charities on the list include the Trussell Trust, Christians Against Poverty, Churches Together in England, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and Church Action on Poverty.

Mr Brown, whose father was a Church of Scotland minister, said: “We are facing a humanitarian crisis that Britain hasn’t seen in decades. As living costs continue to skyrocket, families on the brink of making ends meet cannot bridge the gap. Despite the additional support from government, millions of people are at risk of being pushed deeper into poverty by forces outside of their control.”

It was “the urgent task of the next Prime Minister” to ensure that families had enough to live on through and beyond the current crisis, he said. “The flat-rate payments offered by the Government won’t stretch far enough for families who each have different needs and circumstances.”

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