The benefit system is “not fit for purpose” because millions are trapped in poverty | Pro IQRA News

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Campaigners have warned that the lack of generosity in the benefits system means it is “fundamentally not fit for purpose” as they reveal that millions of families are trapped in poverty.

An analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found that 13.4 million people were in poverty during the first year of the pandemic, including 3.9 million children.

But he argues that the government is not “powerless” to prevent families from falling into poverty, pointing to a £20-a-week universal credit increase that has reduced poverty among large families and young children.

Social Security’s temporary boost in October 2021 has been rescinded.

The Jordan River Foundation said that the withdrawal of the increase coincided with the escalation of inflation and the cost of living crisis, which led to millions leaving now without basics.

According to Jordan River Foundation research, this winter some 7.2 million people skip meals, showers, and heating, and 4.7 million fall behind on their bills.

“This winter we’ve seen two collisions – the cost of living is forcing families to cut back on essentials and our health services are overwhelmed with demand,” said Peter Matejk, senior analyst at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

“Letting people go hungry, not showering, or living in cold homes risks more profound and long-term consequences—not only for the health of individuals but also for the state’s ability to deliver what we should all expect as citizens.”

He added: “Governments are far from helpless and none of this is inevitable. A £20 hike was the right policy choice which clearly made a huge difference during the pandemic and may have prevented very difficult years from becoming a complete disaster for families across the UK.”

“The relief provided by this measure, which was completely cut out of the cost-of-living crisis, also proved that Standard Social Security rates are fundamentally not fit for purpose, with millions now living without necessities like food, heat, and hygiene.”

He added that it takes “political will and imagination to address multiple grievances at once”.

The report also found that 1 million children under the age of four are growing up in poverty, even with additional support.

One in six children (18%) lived in chronic poverty, which is defined as at least three of the past four years. She added that nearly 40% of children in single-parent families live in poverty.

The JRF said the pandemic has also highlighted massive health disparities, with a strong overlap between poverty rates and where families live, their ethnicity and health outcomes.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow work and pensions minister, said: “The scale of the cost-of-living crisis and its impact on children across the country is devastating.

The families have struggled through 12 years of conservative mismanagement of the economy. This shows how hard families are now sinking because they have wrecked the economy.

“Workers will take the right measures to lower energy bills, raise living standards and tackle the growing poverty crisis facing the country.”

A government spokesperson said: “We are aware that families across the country are facing financial strain as a result of Putin’s war in Ukraine and the aftershocks of Covid; That’s why we’re committed to halving inflation this year to ease the cost of living.

We have also stepped in with a £26 billion support package which includes up to £1,350 in direct payments to the most vulnerable households in the next financial year, up from direct payments for 2022. This is in addition to our Energy Price Guarantee, which is worth £900 For the average family this winter, our energy discount, which runs until March and offers £400 off energy bills.

“We are also spending £1.5 billion on more support, with Family Support England helping those in need directly with basic costs, and we are currently providing free school meals to all children aged 5 to 7, benefiting millions of children in need.”

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