Following the Chancellor’s Summer Statement yesterday, many of us will be eagerly planning weekday meals out in August; a chance to enjoy ourselves and connect with family and friends after months in lockdown.
The package of support will provide much-needed boosts to hard-hit sectors and will give some hope to young people worried about getting a job.
But the glaring omission in the government’s plans is an urgent lifeline for children that will prevent worried parents having to choose between heating or eating. Of course, supporting people to go back to work is a vital way to support family finances. But the single-lens focus shows a failure to recognise the reality of life for parents and their children on low incomes right now, and the extra stresses and strains plenty are facing.
Families are continuing to struggle
At the start of lockdown, the government announced a £20 per week increase to benefits, along with some other measures, but since then there has been no further support to boost family finances. This is in the face of mounting evidence that, despite this, families are continuing to struggle.
Save the Children’s recent research with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that families on low incomes are struggling to pay for the most basic of essentials, with 70% cutting back on essentials such as food, heating and electricity, clothes and nappies, and 60% having borrowed money since the start of the pandemic. Food bank use is rising steeply, with 1.7 million children experiencing food insecurity. “Eating out to help out” is a distant dream for lots of children – and the measures announced yesterday will do very little to improve their immediate situation.
We need a lifeline for children
To help the millions of parents currently getting Universal Credit and struggling to make ends meet, the social security system needs a boost. It’s hardwired to support people when times are tough, and I’d say these are pretty tough times. If Rishi Sunak is serious about providing ‘justified support’, he should start here and help Britain’s struggling families stay afloat.
That’s why Save the Children, alongside our friends at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, are calling for the government to extend a lifeline to struggling families by raising the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit by £20 per week. This would help up to 4 million families and 8 million children stay afloat through this crisis.
As we look ahead, we can and must do better by Britain’s kids. The government must invest in a lifeline for children now.