Keep Your Promise: Protect the Most Vulnerable: Uprate Benefits by Inflation

People on the lowest incomes – both in and out of work – have endured a decade of austerity; with freezes and cuts to social security benefits and in-work support; hollowing out support, undermining resilience and ability to cope with adversity.

They now find themselves disproportionately affected by the current cost of living crisis; crushing energy bills and faced with the stark choice of going cold or hungry to make ends meet. The Consumer Price Index has now spiked to 10.1%, with inflation at over 14% for essential food items such as bread, cereals, meat and eggs.

Previous Chancellors have failed to recognise the plight of low income families, choosing to ignore the current crisis by sticking to the out-of-date benefit uprating formula which uses the September 2021 inflation figure of 3.1%. The current Prime Minister and Chancellor have failed to commit to benefit uprating in line with inflation for next year.

Little wonder the Government's own Office for Budget Responsibility states that the rise in inflation to a 40-year high this year will reduce real household disposable incomes leading to the biggest fall in living standards in any single financial year since records began.

The UK Government need to commit to social security benefit uprating in line with inflation for those out of work and in low paid work.

Locally, the Finance Minister has previously referenced the sum of £435 million ‘which cannot be allocated to help families, workers and businesses with the cost of living and to support public services’. Therefore, additional funding is available for households in Northern Ireland, but uncertainty remains about how this money could be used given the collapse of the NI Executive.

We need the restoration of the NI Executive right now to agree a budget and deliver for the people who are in crisis.

Advice NI is calling for the Governments both nationally and regionally to do more to help low income families whose budgets are already at breaking point. Benefit uprating in line with predicted inflation must be implemented without delay. Locally we have seen the vital impact that our ‘Evason’ welfare mitigations package can have in averting destitution; similar local Cost of Living measures and income maximisation schemes can help people survive the coming months. Increased poverty, hardship and destitution will be the consequences of a failure to act.