With little support for charities in yesterday’s Autumn statement, and the real value of the sector’s income forecast to drop £2.2bn, charity leaders have given their views on what the statement means for their beneficiaries and other people struggling in today’s economic climate, as well as the sector’s ability to meet the increasing demand for support.
While the news that benefits will increase in line with inflation, and those that have most will pay more in taxes is welcome, Danny Sriskandarajah, Oxfam GB CEO felt that more could and should have been done, saying:
“The confirmation that benefits will increase in line with inflation will be a welcome relief to people who are struggling to make ends meet but much more needs to be done to protect the most vulnerable both at home and abroad. At a time when people in the UK are choosing between heating and eating and when millions are facing famine in East Africa, this statement delivers insufficient help to those who urgently need much more.
“The Chancellor is right to ask for more money from those who can afford it – including extending the windfall tax and reducing capital gains tax allowances. But he could and should have done more.
“Real terms cuts to already stretched public services and the aid budget, which offers a lifeline to millions, are political choices. The government should instead be asking the wealthiest in society to pay their fair share to tackle skyrocketing poverty and inequality in the UK and around the world.”
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK drew attention to the restoration of the triple lock next year, the uprating of Pension Credit in line with inflation, and cost of living payments, saying that there was welcome news in the statement, but that the decision to delay the cap on care costs was regrettable:
“The restoration of the triple lock next year, uprating of Pension Credit in line with inflation, and cost of living payments, are all extremely important for older people, particularly for the many with no other income to fall back on, including hundreds of thousands of older women, and we welcome them wholeheartedly.
“However, unfortunately the cost of living crisis, social care shortfalls and NHS pressures are all so acute that realistically, life will continue to be extremely tough for many older people, and for the local charities that support them, especially this winter.
“We regret the decision to delay the cap on catastrophic care costs for two years because Prime Minister Boris Johnson had made a firm commitment to introduce it in 2023 and having raised public expectations so high we feel it was right for this Government to follow through. Delaying it by a further two years raises serious questions over whether it will ever be introduced at all. However, we agree that with the social care system as weak as it currently is, the priority today must be to strengthen and deliver more care services.”
Salvation Army Lieut-Colonel Dean Pallant warned that poverty is growing at such a rate that state and voluntary organisations are struggling to keep up, but that the charity welcome measures including those to uprate benefits in line with inflation, and provide additional cost of living payments.
“Measures announced in today’s Autumn Statement shows that while the state is trying to help, its ability to stop the creep of poverty has been dangerously reduced due to rising inflation and the overall bleak economic outlook.
“The Salvation Army welcomes measures to uprate benefits in line with inflation, provide additional cost of living payments (including energy), and explore the barriers driving economic inactivity. We have long argued for this emergency support to help the most vulnerable.
“However, the impact of poverty is creeping further into our communities. Our officers are already seeing the people who used to donate to our food banks are now queuing for food parcels, working parents unable to afford warm coats and school uniforms, and young people coming to our churches and community centres for warmth.
“Essential services like homelessness, addiction, mental health and employment support are already overwhelmed. Inflation means that small budgets are shrinking as history tells us demand will increase in key areas like our homelessness services as economic growth falls. ”
In her response, Shelter Chief Executive Polly Neate welcomed the planned increase to the benefit cap but drew attention to the ‘housing hole’ in the statement and the need to increase housing benefit.
“There is a housing hole in this budget – housing benefit remains frozen at 2020 levels when private rents have been rising at record rates.
“Increasing Universal Credit will really help people struggling to pay their food and fuel bills, but crucially it doesn’t cover rents which are most people’s biggest outgoing. Unless housing benefit is increased, the shortfall with real rents will only grow – swallowing up other benefit increases. The boost to benefits will be built on quicksand.
“The glimmer of hope for those at the sharp end of the housing emergency is the planned increase to the benefit cap. Raising the cap will put more money in the pockets of the hardest hit families. The government’s refusal to unfreeze housing benefit ignores the rental crisis that is unfolding, and means that homelessness will continue to rise this winter.”
Women’s Aid Head of External Affairs Isabelle Younane also welcomed the plans to increase the benefit cap in line with inflation but called for further social security support to help those fleeing abuse.
“The rising cost of living is having an unprecedented impact on women and children experiencing domestic abuse and on the services that support them, and urgent action is required. We welcome the chancellor’s commitment to increase benefits in line with inflation, and extend support on energy bills beyond April 2023, as Women’s Aid has been calling for since the cost of living crisis began. We echo calls from the sector to implement these benefits immediately.
“We continue to call for an Emergency Support Fund to support survivors of domestic abuse through this crisis, in particular to protect migrant women fleeing domestic abuse. Further social security support is needed: survivors must be exempted from the benefit cap, which is a huge barrier to women fleeing abuse, and we urge government to abolish the No Recourse to Public Funds condition for survivors of domestic abuse.
“With the winter months approaching, there can be no further delay. Without urgent action from the government, frontline services risk going under, and many women and children will be forced to stay with their abuser, even when their lives are at risk.”