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“Difficult years are far from over” – JRF responds to the Spring Budget 2023

Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget, Rachelle Earwaker, Senior Economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said:

Date published:

“The Chancellor has made some steps towards tackling some of the issues which have affected families on low incomes over recent years, but we have to be clear – the difficult years are far from over. It will take a much more fundamental shift for our economic and political system to provide the good jobs, social security system and homes that we all need.”

“Inflation may have stopped escalating, but with food prices rising at over 16 per cent this year and 2021-23 seeing the largest successive two year inflation increase since 1979-81, many families are seeing no evidence of the Chancellor’s reasons for optimism. Prices have not started to come down, nor does optimism offer comfort to the 7.2m families unable to afford essentials.

“The glaring omission from the speech of any action to tackle the housing crisis, despite the OBR forecasting a drop in housebuilding in the coming years and higher mortgage rates and soaring rents putting pressure on households, is short-sighted and means the Chancellor is ignoring a growing and serious economic challenge.”

On participation in the labour market:

“This Budget has had a strong focus on boosting employment, and expanding free childcare to very young children and paying childcare costs up front for those on Universal Credit fixes some major problems for many working parents. To meet these aspirations it’s vital that the funding given will match the cost.

“More fundamental reform may be needed to make childcare affordable and available where it is needed, and many of those who have spent this winter making impossible choices between eating hot meals and heating their homes will be wondering if he has really done enough to give them a secure foundation.

“There are big problems with the Work Capability Assessment. It labels people, it doesn’t unlock support to access employment, and it’s not trusted by disabled people. So there are good reasons for change and we welcome proposals for universal support if it is designed in conjunction with those who will use it.

“But there are very concerning aspects in the plans set out today. Addressing these issues must not go hand in hand with an increase in sanctions, which we know are counter-productive, harmful to people’s finances and health, and drive people into destitution.

“To stand any chance of making a positive difference, any new approach to assessments must not lead to the erosion of financial support for disabled people and should be designed on the basis of enabling positive steps towards employment, in particular for the 2.2 million people not working with ill-health or a disability who say they would like to or expect to work again in the future.”