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Response to the Spending Review: The Government must commit to keeping the lifeline

Response to the Spending Review: The Government must commit to keeping the lifeline

25th November 2020

Today the Chancellor, Rt. Hon. Rishi Sunak MP, delivered his Spending Review in the House of Commons. 

We are grateful for the needed additional funding for education, the unemployed and for people on a low income in the Spending Review, on top of the many support packages announced throughout this crisis, and to MPs for their work while facing a very challenging task. However, unprecedented times require an unprecedented response if we are to ensure families facing severe financial insecurity do not fall even further through the net.  

The temporary £20 uplift in Universal Credit has so far been a lifeline to many of these families, who are anxiously awaiting news on whether this will continue beyond March 2021. We, along with many others, were disappointed that no such commitment came today, further adding to the uncertainty these families face. Similarly, those on Legacy benefits have so far missed out on this uplift, when they need it every bit as much as those who have received it and it is urgent the Government includes them in this uplift now. These families should not be made to wait until March to know how much they will have to live on. Every day of untold uncertainty is a day too long to wait. 

We know that we face severe economic challenges ahead, that the Government has already done so much to support people throughout this crisis and that one day the cost of spending on COVID-19 will need to be recovered. However, when the Chancellor personally acknowledged that unemployment will continue to rise until it peaks at 2.6 million people next year, leaving millions more children and families facing financial insecurity, withdrawing critical support for those very people is not the place to start.  

In addition, schools are currently facing unique and extraordinary challenges to support students in these testing times. We are particularly concerned about the number of students at risk of slipping through the net; be it as a result of school anxiety, official or unofficial exclusion, poverty, the disadvantage gap or the impact of COVID-19 on their emotional wellbeing. While there was some funding for schools announced today, and previous announcements including the National Tutoring Programme and the Holidays, Activities and Food programme, there was no evidence of dedicated programmes designed to mitigate the impact COVID-19 will have had on the above factors.  

There were some important measures announced in the Spending Review that will support families, on top of current measures such as the furlough scheme, which we welcome.  

Such measures include: an increase in the Schools’ Budget of £2.2m for 2021/22; a pay rise for 2.1 million public sector workers earning below the median wage; an increase in the National Living Wage and extending it to those aged 23 and over; £2.9m to fund a Restart Scheme aimed at helping one million unemployed people find work, particularly those who have been out of work for over a year. You can read the full Spending Review here

While these measures are welcome, there was a noticeable absence of other measures the Government could have taken, including a permanent commitment to the uplift of Universal Credit and more support for struggling children. In the Chancellor’s own words during his statement, ‘high as these costs are, the cost of inaction would have been far higher’. If the Government does not act to keep and extend the lifeline and to support children at a time when they are reeling from the impact of the current crisis, the cost of that inaction will be devastatingly high for so many struggling families across the UK. 

We will continue to work with other individuals, charities and organisations to campaign for this and for further support for children and families facing financial, educational and emotional challenges before, during and after the pandemic. 

Beth Prescott

Beth Prescott

Before coming to TLG, Beth worked as a Fundraising Project Manager for poverty-relief charity Christians Against Poverty. Beth also has experience in the political sector, having worked for a Government Minister. She was one of the youngest Parliamentary candidates in the country in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections, narrowly missing out on a seat in Parliament in 2017. Beth is a season ticket holder at Huddersfield Town and enjoys hiking through the Yorkshire countryside followed by a local ale in the pub.

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