Scrap benefits freeze to end poverty for thousands, says charity

8 Mar 19

Ending the benefits freeze in the 2019 would enable 200,000 people in the UK to break free from poverty, a charity has claimed.

Lifting the freeze on benefits and tax credits would also mean 8 million people living in poverty with families and children would receive a “large boost” to incomes, according to analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The freeze, announced in the 2015 Budget, is due to run until 2020 and unless it is ended early it will have increased the number of people in poverty by 400,000 and affect 27 million people – 11 million of whom are children, the IfG estimated. 

Aligning benefit payments with current inflation rates would see 8 million families gain an average £270 a year extra - this would benefit 4.3 million children in poverty,  of whom 3.2 million live in low income working families, the think-tank calculated.

The policy, which JRF said is “the single biggest policy driver behind rising poverty in the UK”, has already made families £340 worse off per year and continuing it would make them on average £560 a year poorer.

JRF noted that the cost of lifting the freeze would be “substantially less” than raising income tax personal allowance.

The analysis – based on figures from the Office of Budget Responsibility and the Office for National Statistics – found that the cost of lifting the freeze in 2019 would be £1.4bn compared to the £2.79bn cost of raising income tax personal allowance.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of the JRF, said: “As a society we are failing in our duty to do everything we can to protect each other from poverty.

“There is a growing consensus across the political parties that continuing the benefits freeze would be morally unjustifiable. Ministers have indicated that they do not think the freeze should be extended beyond 2020.

“But families are being driven into poverty now and cannot wait another year for action. The upcoming Spring Statement is an opportunity for the government to end the freeze to help 200,00 people break free from poverty.”

The Treasury has been contacted for comment.

Read PF’s feature on whether universal credit can every deliver an effective benefits system.

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