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Oldham MP Calls for the Government to ‘Guarantee Our Essentials’

Oldham East and Saddleworth MP, Debbie Abrahams is calling on the Government to reform the Universal Credit system to ensure that everyone can afford essentials during the cost of living crisis.

The MP, who is a member of the work and pensions select committee, said: “Losing your job, needing to care for a sick family member, breaking up with your partner; everyone’s circumstances can change. When they do, the social security system should ensure no one goes without the essentials, but it doesn’t.

“When events like these happen, most people would expect our social security system to support them, and for this support to be based on an objective calculation of what things cost, but this has never been the case.”

The MP was quoting new research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which has released a report titled, Guarantee our Essentials, which states that 90% of low-income households on Universal Credit are currently going without essentials.

Their report also says:

  • Support has eroded over decades and the basic rate (‘standard allowance’) of Universal Credit is now at its lowest ever level as a proportion of average earnings.
  • 66% of the public think the basic rate of Universal Credit is too low.
  • Almost half of households see their payments reduced by deductions and caps. For example, a household can lose 25% of their standard allowance to repay debts to DWP.

Ms Abrahams added: “The evidence is clear that inadequate social security is the main driver of food bank need, with almost 1.3 million parcels given out from Trussell Trust food banks between April and September 2022. 

“Without an adequate safety net, a setback can be hard to overcome. Poverty comes at a significant cost to the individual, but also to the economy and wider society, with downstream costs to public services such as the NHS.

“The Government cannot go on ignoring the evidence that is being presented by organisations like the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, they must come up with a plan to help the most vulnerable people in our society who are really struggling to survive in the current economic crisis.”

JRF say that 72% of the public support the Essentials Guarantee and only 8% oppose it. 82% of 2019 Labour voters, 83% of 2019 Liberal Democrat voters, and 62% of 2019 Conservative voters support the policy.

According to JRF the cost of implementing the Essentials Guarantee at their indicative level would be an additional £22 billion a year in 2023/24, assuming full rollout of Universal Credit.

Referring to the cost, the report says that, ‘while this is not insignificant, given the devastating impact that people going without essentials has on our society and economy, there will be savings to public services as a result of improved outcomes, which are not accounted for in our costing.’

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