A pledge by Tory leader Boris Johnson to end the hated benefits freeze in April 2020 has been ridiculed by opposition parties, mainly because the policy was already due to end next year.
The SNP described the pledge as a “cynical election bribe”, while Labour said “nobody will be fooled” by the announcement.
Ending the freeze will cost the Treasury around £5billion a year, but charities and others say the true cost has been most closely felt by families who have been pushed into poverty and driven to foodbanks.
The Work and Pensions Secretary, Thérèse Coffey, said: “We’re clear the best way for people to improve their lives is through work but we know some people require additional support.
“Our balanced fiscal approach has built a strong economy, with 3.6 million more people in work since 2010.
“And it’s that strong economy which allows us to bolster the welfare safety net by increasing benefit payments for working-age claimants now.”
Responding to the announcement, senior economic analyst Adam Corlett from the Resolution Foundation think tank said: “The benefit freeze was always due to end next year.
“The government’s confirmation that working-age benefits will only keep pace with rising prices means there will be no increase in living standards, and those in need of extra support will continue to be left behind.
“With child poverty at risk of hitting record highs, this is a missed opportunity to provide a much-needed boost for low- to middle-income families.”
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Margaret Greenwood MP, said: “Nobody will be fooled by this cynically timed announcement which even now will leave the benefits freeze in place until next April.
“Harsh, punitive Conservative policies like the benefits freeze, the two-child limit and the five-week wait have created a society where people are being forced to turn to food banks in ever increasing numbers just to survive.
“Labour will abolish the benefits freeze, scrap universal credit and put an end to the two-child limit.
“We will ensure that our social security system genuinely protects people from poverty as it should.”
The SNP’s social security spokesman Neil Gray MP said: “The Tories’ benefits freeze has always been a political choice – not a necessity.
“After a decade of brutal Tory and Lib Dem welfare cuts – as well as the two child cap and rape clause, and the shambolic Universal Credit system that has plunged thousands of people into poverty – this cynical benefits freeze announcement is little more than a drop in the ocean.
“If the Tories were really serious about improving people’s lives they would end the harmful policy now instead of waiting until April, by which time it will have cost Scots £300 million a year, negatively affected more than 27 million people, and plunged 400,000 people into poverty.
“In Scotland the SNP Scottish Government are tackling poverty and inequality through a social security system based on dignity, respect and fairness and have done so much in just one year.
“We could do so much more if we had the full powers of independence and a vote for the SNP on December 12th will stop Brexit, stop the Tories and ensure Scotland’s right to choose that future.”