JRF and over 100 organisations call on Rishi Sunak to honour his commitment to go ahead with the normal uprating of benefits by inflation
Benefits payments need to rise in line with inflation now or low income families may not be able to afford to pay rent or feed their children this winter, charities have told the new Prime Minister.
A letter signed by over 100 organisations committed to ending poverty urged Rishi Sunak to honour the promise he made this spring to increase benefits in line with inflation, and to do so now rather than waiting until April.
In May, Mr Sunak – then Chancellor – told the Commons benefits will be uprated as usual in April by September’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation figure, which was over 10%.
There have since been reports that the Government has considered rowing back on this commitment. However, analysis has shown that only uprating benefits at the rate of earnings (roughly 6%) would leave the PM responsible for the biggest permanent real-terms cut to the basic rate of benefits in a single year.
Food prices are now rising faster than at any point since 1980 and bearing the brunt of this are low income families. Charities, trade unions, religious groups and other organisations are therefore now saying this uprating urgently needs to be brought forward to support households through the winter.
They say current benefit rates leave households unable to afford the essentials, with debt, homelessness and foodbank use all on the rise even before this current cost-of-living crisis.
Conservative politicians including incoming Department of Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride have supported benefits rising in line with inflation to protect those most at risk as the cost-of-living crisis continues.
Polling by YouGov for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation earlier this month found that 61% of the public agreed that benefits should go up in line with inflation, including half (49%) of 2019 Conservative voters.
JRF Senior Policy Adviser Iain Porter said:
“Families on low incomes desperately need stability and certainty, as they try to afford the essentials, pay their rent, and keep food on the table. Rishi Sunak personally pledged to go ahead with the usual uprating of benefits in line with inflation, and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt promised last week that he would act with compassion and protect the most vulnerable.
“The new government must show it is as serious about protecting its citizens from harm as it is about calming the markets. It can do this by moving quickly to take away a huge source of anxiety for millions and confirming that benefits will be uprated as soon as possible in line with September’s inflation rate of 10.1% - a position the public agree with.”
Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty for Save the Children UK, said:
“Politicians shouldn’t break their promises to children growing up in the poorest households, and the inability to commit to raising benefits in line with inflation risks doing just that.
“In his former job as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak was clear benefits would increase by inflation as normal which gave those on the lowest incomes much needed reassurance to help them through the cost-of-living crisis. Families haven’t forgotten this, and they depend on a fair rise in income for stability in frightening times.
“Children will suffer a lower standard of living and drop into poverty if the Prime Minister does not stick to his promise.”
On Thursday 26 May 2022, then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak told the Commons “As ever, we keep all situations under review with regard to providing support to households. We know, however, that the most vulnerable are likely, subject to the review of the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to see a significant increase in welfare and pension payments next year, based on September’s CPI, which will be significantly in excess of the inflation forecast for that year” https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-05-26/debates/00D0B309-467C-44F6-BC45-74E1EBA205B4/EconomyUpdate#contribution-6FAF216E-567C-45A5-9A18-01F866145909
Incoming Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride spoke about benefits uprating in the Commons here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-05-17/debates/66D4E191-DD58-4477-B533-D90BC3348D06/TacklingShort-TermAndLong-TermCostOfLivingIncreases#contribution-16B69EE4-91E4-4AEF-AE1D-D4163603BFCD
The poll was of 1600 people across the UK and was carried out online by YouGov during the Conservative Party conference on 4th and 5th October.
Dear Prime Minister,
RE: Benefits uprating
We are writing to congratulate you on your appointment as Prime Minister. During your time as Chancellor you acted decisively to protect low-income households and pledged to increase benefits in line with inflation as normal. We are now calling on you to honour that promise and to implement the uprating as soon as possible rather than waiting until April next year.
Households on low incomes desperately need stability and certainty as they try to afford the essentials, pay their rent, and keep food on the table. Bringing forward the usual uprating of benefits by September’s inflation rate would support people most in need through a difficult winter, including those who are sick or disabled, caring for children or others, and those with low earnings or looking for work. It would also send a clear signal that your government is serious about prioritising the needs of the most vulnerable, as the Chancellor promised to last week.
Many of your colleagues across the Conservative Party made clear this month that they agree that increasing benefits by inflation is both necessary and the right thing to do. The public is supportive too, with 61% of people agreeing that benefits should go up with inflation.
Previous decisions not to go ahead with the normal uprating of benefits have left our social security safety net threadbare. Current benefit rates leave households unable to afford even the essentials, with debt, homelessness and foodbank use all on the rise long before this crisis hit. Failing to uprate with inflation would amount to the biggest permanent real-terms cut to the basic rate of benefits ever made in a single year. Even if uprating goes ahead as normal, the support our social security system provides will still be at historic lows.
The cost of living crisis continues to intensify. Inflation is forecast to remain extremely high for many months to come. In the face of such economic uncertainty it is right that you provide households on low incomes with the reassurance they need and uprate benefits by inflation as soon as possible.
Action for Children
British Association of Social Workers
British Medical Association
Centre for Mental Health
Centre for Progressive Policy
Charity Finance Group
Chartered Institute of Housing
Child Poverty Action Group
Children in Scotland
Children North East
Christians Against Poverty
Communities that Work
Disability Benefits Consortium (a network of over 100 disability organisations)
End Child Poverty Coalition
End Fuel Poverty Coalition
End Furniture Poverty
ERSA (Employment Related Services Association)
Family Rights Group
Ferret Information Systems
First Love Foundation
Glass Door Homeless Charity
Greater Manchester Housing Providers
Greater Manchester Poverty Action
Healthy Livelihoods, UK Prevention Research Partnership: ActEarly Research Collaborative
Human Rights Watch
Huntington's Disease Association
Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN)
Institute of Health Equity
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Kidney Care UK
Leaders Unlocked: Cost of Living Young Advisors
Learning and Work Institute
Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales
Macmillan Cancer Support
Money Advice Trust
National AIDS Trust
NAWRA (National Association of Welfare Rights Advisers)
National Education Union
National Energy Action
National Federation of ALMOs
National Housing Federation
National Survivor User Network
National Youth Agency
National Zakat Foundation
New Economics Foundation
North East Child Poverty Commission
One Parent Families Scotland
Policy in Practice
Rethink Mental Illness
RNIB (Royal National Institute of Blind People)
Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health
Royal College of Psychiatrists
Save the Children
SFHA (Scottish Federation of Housing Associations)
StepChange Debt Charity
The Bevan Foundation
The Childhood Trust
The Children’s Society
The Connection at St Martin’s
The Equality Trust
The Food Foundation
The Hygiene Bank
The Mighty Creatives
The Money and Mental Health Policy Institute
The Poverty Truth Community
The Robertson Trust
The Women’s Regional Consortium, Northern Ireland
Transforming Lives for Good (TLG)
Trust for London
VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group)
We Care Campaign
Women’s Budget Group
York Cost of Living Research Group, University of York
Young Women's Trust
St Vincent de Paul Society
Blind Veterans UK