Families need long-term, sustainable funding to face the cost of living crisis
Author: Mark Russell, Chief Executive
We hoped the Government would take the opportunity to consider children in the Spring Statement and put in place funding that will really make a difference to their lives, but children were not mentioned once in the Chancellor’s plans today.
With families facing huge financial pressures and the cost of living set to soar, this will only get worse for many households due to National Insurance tax rises and the Government failing to uprate benefits to keep pace with inflation.
We welcome an increase in the household support fund, which will help low-income families who find themselves in severe financial hardship, preventing them from falling into debt, poverty or homelessness. However, this is another short-term fix — it’s the same drip, drip, drip of funding that leaves councils hanging from one announcement to the next. It’s not sustainable and doesn’t allow councils to be strategic. The Government need to commit to long-term, sustainable funding for crisis support.
We’re disappointed the Chancellor missed the chance to announce more targeted measures for children from low-income families, such as getting more children free school meals. We have been long campaigning for the government to make free school meals available for every family with children aged 16 or under who needs support from universal credit to make ends meet. That would ensure another 1.5 million children have a decent meal every school day.
The household support fund is there for when families hit crisis, but measures such as free school meals are targeted and can provide a vital lifeline to prevent crisis, saving families around £400 per child per year.
A group of low-income families who are all too often forgotten are those who have come to the UK to live and work and have been put under No Recourse to Public Funds condition, meaning that when crisis hits, or living costs spike, they have no social security safety net to catch them. Our research tells us that these parents are often single and working in key worker roles on zero hours or irregular contracts. The government has temporarily allowed these families to get free school meals, and we urge them to make this permanent. These families pay taxes so will be affected by the NI increase, but still receive no social security help.
We desperately need to invest in our children. This Spring Statement gave the Government the golden opportunity to do this and yet for children and young people it simply does not go far enough to address the scale of the challenges they currently face.