STRUGGLING families would be substantially worse off than they were five years ago if benefits are not uprated with inflation, new analysis from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) shows.

The Government has so far not said that it will uprate benefits next April by this September’s inflation rate, as is the norm for uprating, sparking concern including among its own MPs, that low-income families will suffer further, deep real-terms income losses.

CPAG’s analysis shows benefits would need to increase next April by eight per cent to keep up with prices or almost 10 per cent to keep up with earnings.

In 2024-25 prices are expected to be 25 per cent higher than they were in 2020 and earnings 27 per cent higher. Right now, benefits are only 16 per cent higher than they were in 2020. As a result, any increase to benefits of less than eight per cent would be a real-terms cut to income for struggling families.

This comes in the context of the government having held benefit rates below inflation in nine out of the last 13 years, stripping away thousands from affected families’ budgets each year.

While much of the damage to household incomes caused by Covid and the cost-of-living crisis was mitigated by Government support measures, these were temporary – so unless benefits rise next April by at least this September’s inflation rate, millions of households will have much less money to live on than they had pre-Covid.

Commenting on CPAG’s analysis, Chief Executive of the charity Alison Garnham said: “A below-inflation increase to benefits is unthinkable. It would simply be unmanageable for millions of struggling families – many of them working – who would have less to live on compared to five years ago. For the Government to consider using the income of these families to balance their books at a time when child poverty is rising is outrageous. Ministers must allay concerns now by committing to uprating benefits by at least this September’s inflation rate.”

Parents from the Changing Realities programme, a participatory online project documenting life on a low income, have been commenting on the possibility of below-inflation uprating of benefits. One parent said: “If benefits do not increase in line with inflation, it would mean we will become homeless. I am already in receipt of full housing benefit and I still need to pay extra to the private landlord. I struggle to cover this and energy bills, food and necessities. It causes me anxiety on a daily basis of losing our home. We have lost two homes already in the last six years.”

Another parent from the Changing Realities programme said: “For people like us, the cost of living crisis is far from over. Just because inflation rates may have slowed slightly, this does not all of a sudden mean people who rely on in-work or out of work benefits can afford the basic costs of living… This September has hit the hardest. I have had to make cuts to what I buy in terms of school uniform, [s]eeking out last year’s tattered uniform and making do with items outgrown. The cost of childcare has increased too and that has put an enormous strain on my budget.”

* More information on the Changing Realities project here.

* Source: Child Poverty Action Group