The cost of living crisis is getting worse: What should the government do next?

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A volunteer goes through a packing list form with a recipient. Only the volunteer’s hands are in shot, and they are holding a blue pen, with a mug next to them on the table.

By Helen Barnard – Director of Policy, Research and Impact

The cost of living crisis is deepening for some of those on the lowest incomes. We see this across our network of Trussell Trust food banks and in new research from YouGov which found that half of those on Universal Credit ran out of food in the last month and couldn’t afford to buy more.

More people are being dragged into debt and having to turn to food banks to survive. This escalating hardship creates dire consequences for individuals, communities and the UK as a whole, damaging the nation’s health and holding back our economy.

Over the last 18 months, the UK government has used one-off cost of living payments to help people on low incomes, but the limitations of this approach are now clear. We see in our data that there is a dip in the need for food banks when each payment is made, however this respite only lasts between one and three weeks.

Cost of living payments drive temporary dip in the need for food banks

Line graph showing the number of parcels delivered from April 2022 to July 2023. The graph shows decreases in the need for food banks when cost of living payments are made, however these decreases only last between one and three weeks.

So how should we tackle this escalating crisis? The UK government will set out its spending plans from next April in its Autumn Statement on 22nd November. We’re urging it to take four immediate steps to support people facing severe hardship:

  1. Confirm that benefits will go up in line with inflation in April. Rumours that benefits might be cut are deeply concerning given how many people are already having to go without food and other essentials.
  2. Reduce the amount of money that can be taken off people’s benefits to repay debts to the government.
  3. Unfreeze Local Housing Allowance and bring Housing Benefit back in line with rents so it covers at least the cheapest 30% of private rents in every part of the country, and uprate it every year to reflect changes in rents.
  4. Commit to long-term funding for the Household Support Fund, which is used by local authorities to provide local crisis support in England.

These four steps would offer meaningful support for people on the lowest incomes, helping to protect them from increasingly severe hardship in the coming year.

Building on these initial steps, we need the UK government and all political parties to commit to a long-term solution to this problem – putting an Essentials Guarantee into legislation to embed in our social security system the widely supported principle that, at a minimum, Universal Credit should protect people from going without essentials.

Your help can make a difference – add your name to our petition calling on all political party leaders to support the introduction of an Essentials Guarantee.