Commenting on today’s Budget, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham said:
"New Coronavirus emergency measures on Statutory Sickness Pay, employment support allowance and universal credit are welcome but low-income families need support in health and in sickness. When it comes to the nation’s longer-term priorities, action on poverty must trump potholes and pubs. We need to properly re-invest in our social infrastructure.
“Universal credit continues to cause havoc for millions so it is disappointing that the Chancellor brought no substantial permanent reforms to the table today. The temporary lifting of the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit is very welcome, but to be effective, a plan for prosperity must include fixes to the fundamental design flaws and funding shortfalls that have left universal credit unfit for purpose.
It is within the Government’s power to spread opportunity more evenly across the UK and to enable struggling families to get on, but unless funding is restored for universal credit and for children’s benefits, investment in infrastructure will have limited effects. This Budget was an opportunity to begin to slow the rise in child poverty but there was no evidence today that low incomes are the priority that they should be in any effective strategy to level up the country and boost the economy. The Government could lift seven hundred thousand children from poverty by 2023 if it restored support for children in Universal Credit to its 2013 value, added £5 to child benefit and removed the two-child limit and benefit cap. That would begin to level up those children and to send a strong signal to struggling families that they have not been forgotten.”
While welcoming the new Coranavirus-related benefit changes announced today, Ms Garnham called for further support for people claiming universal credit and other benefits who must self-isolate to reduce the risk of spreading Coronavirus. Jobcentre staff need clear guidance enabling them to lift work-search and other requirements on claimants who must self-isolate, in addition to the Budget announcement to lift the requirement to physically attend benefit offices.
Ms Garnham said:
“It is critical that universal credit payments are made available immediately on a non-repayable basis to anyone self-isolating who needs to claim.”
In addition Ms Garnham called for:
- in the event of schools closures there should be an emergency uplift in child benefit at least to the value of free school meals to ensure that all parents can provide their children with adequate healthy food at a time when family incomes are likely to be reduced as parents have to stay off work to care for children, and children cannot receive free school meals. Work-search/work-preparation requirements should be lifted for parents self-isolating or where children are required to stay off school.
- a temporary uplift in key benefits to ensure people who have to self-isolate can afford to eat healthily and heat their homes. Sanctions and deductions should be lifted from people’s awards if they are self-isolating, and/or people who are sanctioned and self-isolating should have automatic immediate access to a hardship payment.
Notes to editors:
CPAG media contact: Jane Ahrends 0207 812 5216 or 07816 909302