Urgent action needed to address cost of living crisis
Published on 7 August 2022 3 minutes read
The Church of Scotland is calling on the UK Government to take urgent action to bridge the cost of living gap which is plunging people further into poverty.
It has joined 56 faith groups, charities and politicians in response to a new report which says the support being offered to low-income families does not go far enough and a new package is needed.
Author, Professor Donald Hirsch of Loughborough University, said the current flat-rate payments will fall at least £1,600 short of making up for recent changes to living costs and benefits faced by a couple with two children.
Commissioned by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the report assesses the extent to which cost of living measures announced in May will compensate for three blows experienced by millions of low-income families across the UK.
They are - cuts in Universal Credit, inadequate uprating of benefits with accelerating inflation in April and the further rise in the energy cap anticipated in October.
The call for action comes as the Conservative Party considers whether Liz Truss MP or Rishi Sunak MP should become the new party leader and the next Prime Minister of the UK.
Supporting the vulnerable
Rev Karen Hendry, acting convener of the Faith Impact Forum, said: "The Church's theological tradition is to speak truth to power and is committed to speaking up for the most vulnerable people in society.
"Individuals and families on the lowest incomes are facing the most serious cost of living crisis in decades and churches are on the frontline of offering essential, lifeline support to them.
"The UK Government has a moral duty to take long-lasting and meaningful action to ensure that this crisis doesn't deepen and doesn't happen again."
Organisations and individuals who have endorsed the report include the Trussell Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the United Reformed Church, the Methodist Church in Britain, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford and the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.
The report contains stories of first-hand experience of the impact of the rise in cost of living.
Professor Hirsch, director of the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, said: "The shortfall families are facing between skyrocketing costs and the support government has offered continues to grow.
"Families were falling behind with the anticipated rise in costs even when the measures were announced, and since then the food and energy costs forecast for this winter have continued to rise sharply.
"The flat rate emergency payments announced so far leave families with children particularly far behind, because they are not sensitive to the extra costs that children bring.
"A new package needs to address the fact that by the autumn, living costs could have risen by as much as 14% for low-income families, who have received only a 3% increase in benefits.
An additional across-the-board uprating to Universal Credit and other benefits would address family need far more effectively than further flat rate payments."
Crisis beyond politics
The son of a Church of Scotland minster, Mr Brown is a former MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and served as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party from 2007 to 2010.
He said: "This is a crisis that Britain hasn't seen in decades.
"The most urgent and immediate challenge for the incoming Prime Minister is to ensure that families with children and disabled people aren't neglected to struggle through the challenges ahead.
"We need targeted support for families on the lowest incomes, not just cuts in taxes or flat rate payments which don't account for the specific needs of people on the brink of poverty.
"There should be no argument that a permanent increase in Universal Credit is the only way to take a sure step towards a solution.
"This crisis goes far beyond politics; this is a moral issue - our responsibilities to our neighbours and in particular to those who have the least and whose needs are the greatest.
"The incoming Prime Minister has a moral responsibility to ensure that everyone has enough to live on, through this crisis and beyond.
"We cannot be at ease when millions are ill at ease and cannot rest content as long as there is so much discontent.
"Our society will be stronger when we help the weak and will be richer when we help the poor."
The Church of Scotland is an associate member of the Joint Public Issues Team – an ecumenical partnership focused on campaigning for justice and peace.