By Jasmin Gray
Philip Hammond must deliver a “rescue package” in the Spring Statement for millions of low-income families left worse-off by a decade-long squeeze on benefits, welfare campaigner Frank Field has demanded.
The call from the independent MP – who launched an anti-austerity tour of the UK with Independent Group MP Heidi Allen earlier this year – comes after research from the House of Commons Library revealed that two-child families with one parent in work would be £132 worse off in real terms next year compared with 2010.
Meanwhile, families out of work face real terms cuts to their income ranging from £491 to £723.
“There is an overwhelming precariousness that has engulfed families in low-waged work, all too many of whom are vulnerable to hunger because their incomes will not stretch to the end of the month,” Field said.
The research found that six successive benefits caps and freezes had wiped out any gains associated with the introduction of the national living wage and increases to personal allowances.
In a letter to the Chancellor, Field – who resigned from the Labour Party last year – said that if benefits and tax credits had been “inflation-proofed”, single parents and single-earner couples with two children would have been more than £1,400 better off in real terms.
However, he said that while inflation next year was forecast to be around 20% higher than in 2010, child benefit and the basic 30-hour elements of working tax credit would be only 2% higher.
“I very much hope that, having considered these new data, the Chancellor will begin setting out, in the Spring Statement, a rescue package for the living standards of families with children whose incomes have been wrecked by successive waves of caps and freezes,” Field said.
The MP, who is the chair of parliament’s work and pensions committee, said he was compelled to call on Hammond after witnessing the “horror” of his Birkenhead constituents being forced to rely on food projects to survive.
“In the light of these trends, it is not difficult to see why so many families, reliant on low-waged jobs, now seek help from their local food bank,” he said.
A spokesperson for the government said that it’s priority was to support people to improve their lives.
“Last week’s figures show the unemployment rate is the joint lowest since 1975 and wages are growing at the fastest rate in over a decade, outpacing inflation for nearly a year,” they said.
“We know that some people need more support. That’s why we’re spending £90 billion to support families who need it, and by 2022 we will be spending £28 billion more on welfare than we do now.”