Britain’s poorest families are living in dire straits, Save the Children warns of poverty | Daily News Byte

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A leading charity has warned that the UK’s poorest families are in dire need and urged ministers to urgently provide additional financial support.

Gwen Hines, chief executive of Save the Children, told the Guardian that the severe financial hardship will really begin in January, with many families already unable to afford basic goods.

This sobering message A survey conducted by YouGov for the Resolution Foundation found that 31% of households in the bottom fifth of earners said they were significantly cutting back on the amount they spend on gifts, festive food and other seasonal items. That compares with 16% among the highest earners.

Hines said: “Many families in the UK are living in dire circumstances at the moment and we know that Christmas and the New Year will be particularly difficult. We worry that January will be the time when the financial difficulties really start to bite.

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has announced that benefits will be increased by 10.1% in line with the rate of inflation in April, and that low-income families are to receive living expenses payments worth £900 in addition to £650. October and November.

However, Save the Children has called on the government to provide more support now to help families through the harsh winter.

Hines said the benefits paid to low-income parents should be £20-a-lift-a-week, which would “provide a significant impact on children’s wellbeing now which can last long into the future”.

Best known for its work in developing countries, Save the Children has awarded 2,344 direct grants to low-income families in the UK over the past year.

The charity said these “early years” grants, which were first introduced during the Covid pandemic, are used by parents – some of whom are at work – to buy food, warm clothes and bedding for their children. The charity has spent more than £1m on payments in the past year, which usually amount to £400.

With rocketing fuel bills expected to make the next three months particularly difficult, Save the Children recently increased the budget for the program by 25%.

Hines said: “The UK Government must do more to support those on the lowest incomes, as our grant program reveals the dire need for parents both in and out of work. Waiting until April 2023 for new living payments is not acceptable.

Clear beaches
Sheerness in Kent is one of the poorest towns in the UK. Photograph: Andy Hall/The Observer

Save the Children staff managing the grants reported that families were struggling to afford fruit and vegetables or warm winter coats for children. A recent recipient moved into social housing but was unable to furnish the house, leaving the downstairs uncarpeted.

A Resolution Foundation poll conducted by YouGov among working families shows that the UK’s lowest earners are not alone in tightening their belts. In total, 64% of all workers surveyed said they would try to rein in Christmas spending this year, amid widespread predictions that the economy is slipping into recession.

Emily Fry, an economist at the thinktank, told the Guardian: “Low-income families have faced some of the hardest costs of living this year, from rising food prices to energy bills, and it’s taking its toll early this Christmas.

“The government has provided significant targeted support to vulnerable families and should continue to do so, as they will continue to find themselves at the center of crises next year.”

She added that family finances have already been stretched thin by the Covid pandemic, leaving poor families with little room for maneuver. “People who already entered the pandemic with little savings, little buffer to deal with unexpected shocks, are now facing another crisis.”

Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “Families have struggled for 12 years of Conservative mismanagement of the economy. This shows the hardship families are now facing as they crashed the economy in 12 weeks of chaos.

The government expects to spend an extraordinary £58bn on life support spending, including the energy price guarantee, in the current financial year and another £24bn in 2023.

It exceeds the £70bn cost of the Covid furlough scheme, which paid the wages of millions of workers during the pandemic, but charities and thinktanks have repeatedly warned that it is still insufficient to protect the poorest families from significant hardship.

In 2020, the then chancellor, Rishi Sunak, raised universal credit by £20 per week across the board during the pandemic, but the rise was withdrawn in October 2021 following protests from thinktanks and charities.

Inflation in the UK eased slightly in November, but remains close to a 40-year high, at 10.7% on the Consumer Price Index measure.

Citizens Advice recently reported that they sent 3.5 people to food banks every minute in the first week of December – more than any other week on record.

A government spokesman said: “Our priority will always be to support the most vulnerable and we know people are struggling with rising prices, which is why we’ve protected millions of people most in need this year with at least £1,200 in direct help. Stay, including £400 towards energy costs.

“Our immediate support also includes our energy price guarantee, saving the average household around £900 a winter, and our household support fund to help people with essential costs.”

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