Shocking new figures have revealed the terrible toll inflicted by the Tory benefit freeze ahead of chancellor Philip Hammond’s spring spending statement on Wednesday.
The amount people receive will be worth 6.5 percent less than it would have been without the freeze on most working-age benefits and tax credits. And after three years of the freeze people in poverty are on average £340 a year worse off, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report.
That’s equivalent to the average cost of food shopping for a low-income family for around eight weeks.
First introduced by former chancellor George Osborne’s in 2015, the freeze meant benefits no longer rose in line with inflation.
Around 200,000 people have been pulled into poverty by the first three years of the freeze, around half of them children.
But that’s only the beginning of the pain—as MPs signed off on a further year of the freeze last week.
Between 2016 and 2020 it will have affected more than 27 million people and swept 400,000 into poverty. People living in poverty will be on average £560 worse off, equivalent to around three months of food shopping for an average low-income family.
Ashley is a single claimant with no children. She told the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, “Since the benefit freeze, I have been choosing between eating, heating, paying bills or dealing with another essential need or emergency.
“Before the benefits freeze, I could just about manage to pay my bills and feed myself every fortnight. But that was probably also due to being on Disability Living Allowance (DLA) at the time as well.
“As the freeze continued, I was deemed ‘not disabled enough’ to continue to receive DLA as I transitioned to Personal Independence Payment (PIP). This obviously stretched my income to its limit.”
Ashley said that after three years “things are worse than they’ve ever been”. “Before there would have been the occasionally miraculous situation where I could manage to save a few pounds,” she said.
“As the freeze has continued, those opportunities have become even fewer and further apart.”
The benefits freeze, rollout of the Universal Credit regime and the cutbacks in other public services are disastrous for huge numbers of people. The Tories need to go now—and Labour should pledge to restore the full value of all benefits and scrap universal credit.