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Chancellor doubles Household Support Fund, cuts fuel duty, and raises National Insurance Threshold

Today, Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered his Spring statement.  The Spring statement, introduced in 2006, was originally intended to be nothing more than a fiscal update ahead of the Autumn Budget.  However, this year, with the British economy still trying to recover from the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, and a full-scale cost of living crisis, the Chancellor was under increasing pressure to deliver measures to save millions of families from extreme hardship in the face of “once in a lifetime” external events.

In light of this, the Chancellor has cut fuel duty by five pence, raised the National Insurance threshold by £3,000 and promised to cut basic rate income tax to 19 per cent by the end of Parliament in 2024. Furthermore, The Household Support Fund is set to double from £500m to £1bn, which will be available from April and go towards supporting vulnerable households.  The funding is given to councils in England and primarily used to support households with the cost of essentials, according to local needs.

But is this enough?  Sherrelle Collman, Managing Director of Caridon Foundation, a not-for-profit specialist supported housing service, says:

Whilst the increased Household Support Fund will go some way to helping councils support those most in need, the cost of energy, fuel, food and other essentials are soaring simultaneously, so thousands more people are going to be pushed into poverty, therefore I don’t think the measures outlined today go far enough.

Benefits such as Universal Credit and pensions are due to go up by just 3.1 per cent in April, but inflation is already at 6.3 per cent and predicted to rise further, so as rightly stated by The Office for Budget Responsibility, families face the biggest fall in living standards since records began.

Inevitably the most vulnerable in society are being worst affected, and whilst heading into Spring will enable some households to turn off their heating, the future looks increasingly bleak.   

We would like to have seen the Chancellor do more for those in receipt of Universal Credit, such as reverse his £20 a month cut that was temporarily uplifted in March 2020 to help people struggling with the impact of the pandemic, but unfortunately this was not addressed.

We will see a huge surge in reliance on food banks over the coming months and services such as ours will likely be stretched to capacity. We call on the Government to strongly consider much greater support in the Autumn Budget to prevent millions of people facing a shocking “eat or heat” dilemma as the cost of living squeeze devastates their personal finances.”