The Chancellor’s Spring Statement has failed to offer any meaningful support to those on the lowest incomes. People that are out of paid work, cannot work, are working low-paid insecure jobs and are claiming benefits will be the hardest hit by the cost of living crisis, and yet have received the least support.
In this Spring Statement we needed to see targeted support for those already facing the highest levels of disadvantage. With inflation already at 6% and set to rise 8% next month, the 3% benefits rise equates to a real terms cut. Not only will those receiving benefits face a real terms cut, but income will need to stretch further just to afford basics.
Whilst the plan to raise the National Insurance tax threshold from £9,800 to £12,570 will benefit around 70 per cent of workers; those who cannot work will receive no support whatsoever.
It is inevitable that the cost of living crisis will lead to greater levels of poor mental and physical health within communities that already face the worst health outcomes. In a Trust survey of funded partners between March and April 2021, 97 per cent of project leads identified mental health as a concern within their communities and neighbourhoods.
Our funded partners also reported that financial issues, food insecurity and health concerns had all been issues of growing concern for the people they work with, often linked to a broader increase in levels of anxiety. What we are likely to see is that as the cost of living rises and people are pushed further into financial insecurity, more people will experience worsening health outcomes.
Since Ofgem announced a 54 per cent increase to the energy price cap in February, many people on the lowest incomes have been faced with the daily decision whether to heat their homes or feed their families.
Our Active Communities funded partner Pallion Action Group who support local residents with advice about benefits, jobs and incomes, and tackle social isolation, explained:
“The fuel hikes don’t match people’s salaries and benefits, so we’re helping out as much as we can… There are a lot of reasons why people are struggling now. They may have lost their jobs or exhausted their savings during the Covid pandemic.”
Jenny Edwards, Chair said:
“We know that financial insecurity causes significant stress which, in turn, leads to worse mental and physical health outcomes. The Chancellor’s lack of support for those people who are the most marginalised and on low incomes, particularly during the early recovery from Covid, will only serve to exacerbate the health inequalities they face now and in the months and years to come. It is a huge missed opportunity.”