Autumn Statement: families were left worried sick to give government a rabbit-in-the-hat moment
It’s right that benefits are uprated as usual but this should never have been in doubt and legislation mandating inflationary increases is needed as a basic protection for living standards. Struggling families have been worrying themselves sick for months about whether an unmanageable income cut was coming in order to provide the government with a rabbit-out-of-the-hat moment.
The Chancellor’s booster language will grate on millions of hard-pressed parents who face a second winter of rising prices but are no better placed today to make ends meet than they were yesterday, before the statement. The cut in national insurance will increase take-home pay for some, but not for those whose income is already too low to benefit from it, nor for those on low incomes for whom it simply reduces entitlement to universal credit.
Increasing the Local Housing Allowance brings much-needed relief for low-income families who for far too long have received a mere contribution to rents which doesn’t meet their real housing costs, but more will be needed if support in universal credit is to keep up with rising rents.
There are four million children experiencing poverty but the Chancellor chose not to use the fiscal headroom to protect their well-being. Nothing about ignoring rising child poverty is good for the country’s growth prospects.
Millions of struggling families will not be ‘back on track’ until they have the support they need for their children. That means restoring investment in child benefit and abolishing the pernicious two-child limit and benefit cap.
New conditions for long term sick claimants
Better employment support for people who are sick or disabled but ready to return to work is always a good investment but that doesn’t consist of punitive sanctions and unpaid work schemes. Nothing in what is proposed meaningfully addresses the very real barriers to work facing people in this group. When will ministers heed the evidence which time and again shows benefit sanctions make it less - not more - likely that people can work?