Ending the controversial freeze to working age benefits could lift as many as 200,000 people out of poverty, including around 100,000 children, a leading charity has claimed.
Prolonging the benefit freeze is almost certain to increase poverty and make life more difficult for millions of families, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has warned.
JRF analysis suggests that the majority of families with children would benefit if the Chancellor decided to end the freeze on benefits and tax credits one year early, with around 3.2 million children living in low-income working families likely to benefit from such a decision.
Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd confirmed earlier this week that the benefit freeze if likely to come to an end next year (April 2020), as originally planned, but this will mean that at least 400,000 people will have been plunged into poverty over the life of the “cruel” policy.
It would also mean that the lives of 27 million people will have been made more difficult since the policy first came into force.
Ashley, 42, told JRF: “Since the benefit freeze, I have been choosing between eating, heating, paying bills or dealing with another essential need or emergency.
“It’s not right that the cost of living continues to increase, while benefits have remained static.
“It is cruel and unrealistic to expect people to break free of poverty, while doing nothing to make this an achievable outcome.”
Campbell Robb, Chief Executive of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “As a society, we are failing in our duty to do everything we can to protect each other from poverty.
“Social security is meant to be a public service we can all rely on in hard times however, that support is being eroded.
“There is a growing consensus across the political parties that continuing the benefits freeze would be morally unjustifiable.
“Ministers have indicated that they do not think the freeze should be extended beyond 2020. But families are being driven into poverty now and cannot wait another year for action.
“The upcoming Spring Statement is an opportunity for the Government to end the freeze to help 200,000 people break free from poverty.
“The Chancellor must seize this opportunity to right the wrong of more and more families being swept into poverty. The risks of the current uncertain economic outlook should not be borne by those who have the least protection.
“Ending the freeze could redress that balance – and help working families to stay afloat.”