I cannot disagree with my hon. Friend. There is a deliberate attempt by DWP Ministers in this Government to sanction and stigmatise people who are on benefit.
The cost of living crisis means that people are more than £1,600 a year worse off since 2010. Living standards will be lower at the end of this Parliament than they were at its beginning. Prices have risen faster than wages for 52 of the 54 months that our Prime Minister has been in office. There are more working families living in poverty in the UK today than families with nobody in work—for the first time since records began. The cost of some food essentials has gone up in the past six years by as much as 20%. Families on the lowest incomes spent almost a quarter more on food last year than they did six years ago—they were already the families who spent the largest share of their income on food. People are now buying fewer, cheaper calories; they have been forced to trade down to less healthy, less nutritious, more processed foods.
It is not just food that has been going up in price: since 2010, people have been paying £300 more on average for energy to heat their homes and keep their lights on; water bills have gone up, with one in five people struggling to pay them; the cost of housing keeps rising, with renters now paying on average over £1,000 a year more than in 2010; and for those with children, the rising price of child care is making it harder and harder to take on work.
Yet during this time the Government have done nothing to address the cost of living crisis—and they plan much worse. Robert Chote, chair of the Office for Budget Responsibility, said plans in the autumn statement now take
“total public spending to its lowest share of GDP in 80 years.”
“total government spending to its lowest level as a proportion of national income since before the last war”.
This Tory plan to recreate 1930s Britain, along with its hunger, low pay and non-existent rights at work, coincides with changes to the labour market making it tougher to make ends meet, even for someone who is in work. The “Feeding Britain” report says that 25% of food bank users are in work and the Trussell Trust says that 22% are: increasingly, being in work is no longer a guarantee against going hungry in Britain today. David McAuley, the Trussell Trust chief executive, said that
“we’re…seeing a marked rise in numbers of people coming to us with ‘low income’ as the primary cause of their crisis. Incomes for the poorest have not been increasing in line with inflation and many, whether in low paid work or on welfare, are not yet seeing the benefits of economic recovery.”
He is correct.