The next Prime Minister is being urged by organisations dedicated to reducing poverty to reassure low-income families that they would get adequate help with soaring energy bills.
In a letter to the two remaining contenders for the Conservative Party leadership, 70 charities and community organisations urged them to demonstrate “compassion and leadership” toward working-age low-income families by covering the £1,600 loss they would experience this winter.
The Government has previously promised to provide each of the most disadvantaged households £1,200, but due to increased living expenses as well as soaring energy prices, the support package is no longer enough.
Low-income households’ energy expenditures have increased by £1,800 since last year, while other expenses like food have increased by £1,000 at the same time.
This demonstrates the need for an additional payment of at least the same size as the existing £1,200 payment to everyone receiving means-tested benefits only covers around half of the increase.
Low-income families, who are already struggling to pay their expenses, will be forced to make up the difference themselves, further putting them in debt, unless government assistance at least doubles.
This year, at least one basic item had to be forgone by nearly three-quarters of low-income households receiving Universal Credit or other means-tested benefits.
According to the letter, the potential Conservative Party leader must make sure that the social security system always provides enough so that people may pay the necessities. “This situation cannot be allowed to continue,” it adds.
It also requests Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak’s commitment to lowering benefit debt deduction rates. MPs said that these deductions caused households to become food bank dependent and fall into poverty.
“You were both senior members of a government that pledged to ensure that the most vulnerable and least well off get the support they need. It is only right that this be your top priority should you take office,” it ends.
Paul Kissack, Chief Executive at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “History shows that, when Britain faces a national emergency, Government is at its best when it steps up and takes determined and creative action to protect people and businesses, often in previously ‘unthinkable’ ways.
“We saw that after the 2008 crash with the nationalisation of banks. We saw it in the pandemic with a generous furlough scheme.
“The nation faces another national emergency now, and people rightly expect the Government to act to offer protection. Instead, we are seeing a Government asleep at the wheel, and leadership contenders failing to grasp the scale and urgency of the crisis.
“Even before the current crisis the social security system failed to cover the essentials, degraded by years of cuts. People are already selling their possessions, taking on risky debt and building up arrears they may never be able to pay back. And things are about to get far worse.
“Planning for a substantial support package needs to start immediately. Without it, vulnerable people will face a catastrophe on a vast scale when winter sets in. The consequences of sitting idly by are unthinkable”.
Dan Paskins, Director of UK Impact at Save the Children, said: “When energy bills rocket in the Autumn, families who already have it tough are going to find things even harder.
“Parents will face impossible choices over whether to prioritise feeding their children or heating their homes.
“We have signed this letter because the UK government must do more – and fast.
“At the very least, the government should double the emergency support package announced in May to ensure families are shielded from a catastrophic winter.
“The most efficient way to provide this support would be through further payments through the social security system.”