The Scottish National Party has today joined a coalition of charities in calling on the UK Government to end the freeze on benefits which – coupled with the increase in living costs – is putting even more pressure on the finances of low income families.
The four year freeze on working-age benefits imposed by the UK Government means that families are expected to lose around 12% of their financial support by 2020 at the same time as prices of everyday essentials continues to rise thanks to inflation hitting a two-and-a-half year high this week.
The “Feeling the Pinch” report finds that prices are expected to have risen by 35% between 2010 and 2020, whilst support for children in poverty has increased much more slowly – Child Benefit will have increased by just 2% over the same period – around a seventeenth of what would be needed to keep up with increases in the cost of living.
The coalition’s analysis shows that In April 2010, benefit income for an out-of-work single parent with two children (excluding housing costs) was around £198 per week. In order to keep up with the rise in the cost of living by 2020, this would have to increase to around £267 per week. The family’s actual 2020 income is expected to be around £214 per week. The real loss of £53 per week will leave this family worse off by nearly £2,800 a year.
Neil Gray MP, SNP spokesperson for Fair Work and Employment and Vice-Chair of the APPG on Poverty, said: “For many, January can be a tough month but for people who are struggling to make ends meet it is even harder as they have little option but to watch as the cost of everyday essentials soars but benefits and incomes remain frozen.
“The Tories’ four year freeze on working-age benefits, including child tax credits, working tax credits and Jobseeker’s Allowance, means that families could lose around 12% of their financial support by 2020 – with the incomes of women and disabled people being hit disproportionately.
“And the best deals on basic services like metered energy are often unavailable to people on low incomes because they cannot take advantage of pay in advance or direct debit deals – which has been named the “poverty premium”.
“According to the “Feeling the Pinch” report, a typical low income family could face paying around £1700 per year more for the same essential goods and services as a similar higher income family.
“In Scotland the SNP are already spending £100 million a year mitigating the welfare cuts inflicted by the UK government and have outlined plans to legislate to eradicate child poverty by 2030.
“It is absolutely imperative that the UK Government end the freeze on benefits as only by reversing this punitive freeze and working with businesses to tackle the “poverty premium” can we really take a step forward in eliminating poverty.”
Sam Royston, chair of the End Child Poverty coalition, said: “Families living in poverty are trapped between frozen support, rising costs of living, and a hefty poverty premium which means that they pay the most for basic essentials.
“End Child Poverty members know all too well the impact this poverty trap has on children’s lives. Too often, families are facing impossible choices between feeding their children and heating their home.
“The Government needs to take action now, to lift the four year freeze on children’s benefits, and to ensure that the highest prices for family essentials aren’t paid by those who can least afford them.”