Rishi Sunak unveils £500m ‘household support fund’ to help stricken families with heating, food and clothes this winter as ministers scramble to quell backlash over scrapping £6BILLION universal credit uplift ahead of Tory conference
Rishi Sunak said the funding would provide a ‘lifeline’ for hard-up families this winter
Rishi Sunak today unveiled a £500million ‘household support fund’ as ministers scramble to head off a backlash over the end of furlough and the universal credit uplift.
The Chancellor said the funding would provide a ‘lifeline’ as the country faces a cost of living crisis over the winter, with supply chain chaos sending inflation and energy bills into overdrive.
Councils will be given money to distribute to struggling families, so they can afford ‘essentials’ such as heating, food and clothes over the coming months.
But the initiative was immediate slammed by Labour as an ‘inadequate sticking plaster’ designed to give the Tories cover as they kick off their party conference this weekend.
Ministers have admitted that jobs will be lost after the furlough scheme ends today, although they insisted there are ‘opportunities’ with huge numbers of vacancies in the economy.
The £20 a week universal credit uplift is also ending – and by comparison was far bigger, costing the taxpayer the equivalent of £6billion a year.
The government has always insisted that extra money was temporary during the pandemic, and pointed out it would require significant tax rises to raise that kind of revenue.
Mr Sunak said: ‘Everyone should be able to afford the essentials, and we are committed to ensuring that is the case.
‘Our new Household Support Fund will provide a lifeline for those at risk of struggling to keep up with their bills over the winter, adding to the support the government is already providing to help people with the cost of living.’
The new fund will be in place in England over the winter, with people urged to contact their local council for access.
The country faces a cost of living crisis over the winter, with supply chain chaos sparking petrol panic buying and sending inflation and energy bills into overdrive
Labour leader Keir Starmer has been attacking the government over ending the £20 a week universal credit uplift
The government says it bolsters the Warm Home Discount which provides a £140 rebate on energy bills each winter to over 2.2million low-income households, as well as £25 a week Cold Weather Payments for poorer households.
Although the overall funding is £500million, £79million of that will be handed to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to spend as they wish, in line with the Barnett formula.
Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: ‘Conservative choices have created a perfect storm this winter, leaving working people facing tax hikes, an energy crisis and cuts to Universal Credit.
‘Temporary and inadequate sticking plasters are no substitute for a proper social security system that offers security to families in hard times. The Government must learn the lessons of the pandemic, cancel their cut to Universal Credit and use our recovery to better prepare this country for the challenges of the future.’
Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Helen Barnard said it was an ’11th hour attempt to save face’ over the universal credit cut.
‘The household support fund is an 11th hour attempt to save face as the government presses ahead with an unprecedented overnight cut to universal credit next week,’ she said.
‘The support available through this fund is provided on a discretionary basis to families facing emergency situations.
‘It does not come close to meeting the scale of the challenge facing millions families on low incomes as a cost-of-living crisis looms and our social security system is cut down to inadequate levels.
‘By admitting today that families will need to apply for emergency grants to meet the cost of basics like food and heating through winter, it’s clear the chancellor knows the damage the cut to universal credit will cause.’