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Chancellor's Autumn Statement doesn't recognise the level of need say Christians

by Donna Birrell

The charity Christians Against Poverty, and others who work at the forefront of supporting those in need, say the Chancellor's budget offers little hope to those struggling with the cost of living crisis.

Paul Morrison is policy adviser to the Methodist Church. He said:  "It's important to say that often much of the things that affect you and you may not like are published in the documents just after the announcement. 

"For churches, I think many of them are thinking of setting up warm banks and they've got food banks, which are seeing huge increases. The question is whether or not this budget is going to change that. This isn't going to change the need that they're seeing in their communities. So far, the answer is No. 

"One of the major things that is happening is there's this vast increase in poverty that's happened over the last decade. There's an increase in need and the budget does not touch that. 

"That's really important for churches as they look around their communities. For people on Universal Credit, about half of them skip meals every month, in order to be able to feed their families. 

"Churches are experiencing extraordinary need. But the solution to this is not more warm banks, the solution to hunger is not more food banks. 

"If food banks were the solution to poverty, we would have solved it. The solution is budgets that recognise that need. So far what we have seen is a budget that doesn't recognise that need."

The Chancellor has announced that some benefits will rise in line with inflation from April.

Christians Against Poverty said that despite some welcome elements, the Government has also missed longer-term opportunities to help those on low incomes.
Gareth McNab , CAP's Director of External Affairs, said: "Our Debt Advisors are finding themselves in uncharted territory, with increasing numbers of clients whose budgets simply cannot be made to add up. This is despite our specialist support and is a direct result of the cost of living outstripping their incomes.

"Today's budget was a missed opportunity to turn this situation around.
"Uprating social security, the benefit cap and national living wage is important and welcome, but should never have been up for debate as the lack of certainty has caused distress among many low income households. Although the energy price guarantee is scheduled to increase by a further £500 for a year from next April, there is some reassurance in knowing the guarantee will continue. It is right that support is being targeted at the most vulnerable, but households on means-tested benefits will receive £300 less in cost of living payments next year compared to this year.  
"CAP has been asking the Government to engage with us and listen to our clients' concerns around escalating energy prices, which would help the Government design a fairer system. The flat rate of support in the Energy Price Guarantee and the cost of living payments announced fails to take into account the different levels of need and leaves people with children, disabilities and in the private rental sector dangerously exposed to the terrible impacts of poverty."

Simon Fann is an anti-poverty campaigner and the manager of Truro Foodbank in Cornwall. He told Premier the budget doesn't offer hope to people who are struggling:

"The simple answer to questions at the moment is everything is double. The number of people we're feeding is double, the amount of food we need is double compared to when I started doing this three years ago.

"So I'm not going to say there's an easy solution. In fact, I don't like the word solution. It doesn't mean anything at the moment. It's looking for in-roads into solutions.

"So what I'm hearing if you're talking about compassion, and peace and joy, is there's not much of that around."  

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