THE Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) has responded  to the government’s plans for the forthcoming parliament, as set out in the King’s Speech.

Darren Baxter, Principal Policy Adviser for the JRF said: “3.8 million people experienced destitution in this country in 2022, around a million of them children. These figures have risen sharply since 2017. Two weeks ago we asked both political parties for their plan to address this moral mission, but today’s speech was fundamentally inadequate in meeting the scale of the challenge.

“By pressing ahead with the long-delayed Renters Reform Bill the government is finally honouring its commitment to millions of tenants living in an insecure, high cost private rented sector, who will hope that this time the bill will finally become law. But its open ended delay to ending no fault evictions means renters will continue to face unfair, unexpected evictions.

“As we approach the autumn statement and the general election, the public want to see real action, not rhetoric, to tackle rising levels of severe hardship. We now need all parties to set out their plans for a future where everyone in our country can at least afford to keep warm, dry, clean and fed.

“As an immediate measure, the government must commit to uprating benefits in line with inflation in the usual way, and end the uncertainty facing millions of families. The parties seeking to form a government should also commit to introducing an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ into Universal Credit, to ensure that everyone has a protected minimum amount of support to afford essentials like food and household bills”.

Commenting on the welfare reform measures in the speech, Becca Lyon, head of UK child poverty at Save the Children, said: “Welfare reforms that only focus on getting people into work, as mentioned in the King’s Speech, would be the wrong focus at the wrong time. We are still in the midst of an appalling cost of living crisis and if the UK government is really interested in strengthening the social fabric of the UK, they should make sure those on the lowest incomes get more support. Universal Credit is failing families and the UK government must commit to raising benefits in line with inflation at the very least.

“Just this week the UN’s special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights said poverty levels in the UK are simply unacceptable. Driving down these numbers should be a priority for the UK government.”

* More information on the ‘Essentials Guarantee’ here.

* Source: Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children