Poverty is ignored in the Government’s latest budget

07 March 2024

Leaders from across the Methodist Church have responded to the Chancellor’s announcements made in the budget on 6 March. They have highlighted the lack of acknowledgement of people struggling against poverty in our communities, and the lack of difference the announcements will make to the communities they live and work alongside.

Paul Morrison, Policy Advisor for the Joint Public Issues Team, said:
“A 2p cut in National Insurance offers the bottom fifth of households around £350m a year, but the top fifth of households will receive over 10 times more – more than £4Bn. This cut represents a long-term choice to target resources on those with the most rather than those with the least.

“In a country where 14.4 million people are held back by poverty and where one million children are growing up experiencing destitution – a form of very deep poverty we had all but eradicated in the UK – the choice to focus money on the best-off households is the wrong one.

“Today, five out of every six households receiving Universal Credit (the main benefit designed to support low-income families), are going without essentials. The six-month extension of the Household Support Fund, which provides funds to councils to help families struggling to meet their basic needs, is welcome, but it is a temporary measure that will barely touch the sides of the problem. A decent welfare system would at the very least ensure that everyone is able to afford the essentials.

“The Churches are supporting the Let’s End Poverty movement, because with political willingness we can turn the tide on rising poverty in the UK. The movement is bringing together voices from across society to demand that our political leaders take poverty seriously and set out their long-term plans to address it as an election approaches. The reality of deepening poverty did not feature in either the Chancellor’s budget speech or the Leader of the Opposition’s response – next time, it must be central.”

Leaders from across the Methodist Church who work alongside low-income communities also offered their initial reflections on the budget announcements.

Revd Neil Johnson, Pioneer minister at Street Banquet in Birmingham said:
I work alongside the street community, particularly those in Birmingham City Centre – those living with the daily injustice of homelessness. This includes rough sleepers, hostels and houses of multiple occupancy (HMO) residents and tenants in insecure and inadequate housing. These are people, many of whom are receiving benefits, but also those who are working in poorly paid work and receiving very low incomes. This budget has done those people no favour at all. In fact, quite the opposite. Jeremy Hunt said that his budget was a budget for long-term growth. And yet we’re living in a society where many, many people are in immediate need.

“The future was already bleak for the street community but now, after this budget, it seems even bleaker. The budget makes the richer, better off while poverty increases. Cuts to public services will have a devastating impact on the poorest and most marginalized of communities. This budget was not meant for the members of the street community, people who already feel disenfranchised because they have been disowned by society.

“So what will make a difference? A truly just tax system, solving the housing crisis and long-term investment in public services.”

Winnie Baffoe, Director of Engagement and Influence, South London Mission said:
The budget refers to fiscal drag, a recovery of finances, but not to people’s lives. The negative accumulative effects of inadequate housing, the lack of investment in mental health and reduced funding in education is not spoken openly about. We cannot recoup the loss of time and the impact that has had on people’s lives. What we need is a budget that tells the story of the social contracts of housing, education, and health. Children and young people are heirs of the past 10 years, the suffering children of the present and makers of the future. What does this budget tell us that they have to build on?”

Deacon Jenny Jones, based at Methodist Central Hall, Manchester, said:
This budget makes no additional provision for refugees and asylum seekers, and actually blames them for the problems the countries are having. In recent months, the government has improved the speed with which applications are processed for those who are looking for the right to remain. And that’s good news in some ways. But I don’t think we’ve really talked about how, once leave to remain is granted, their benefits, anything they have like their accommodation, all stops within a few days. I think this budget should have been addressing that, because these people are becoming homeless, their mental health is being destroyed. These people become dependent on food banks, clothing banks, warm spaces, the places that churches provide. But this government and this budget have forgotten that these are real people with real emotions. The people that I have met are wonderful people who would love to contribute to this country. But they’re being held back by the systems. And this government doesn’t seem to care.”

Helen Pearce, Social Justice Enabler, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Methodist District, said:
“For many in Cornwall, the budget gave no good news, especially those who struggle to find accommodation to live in. For the 28,000 people waiting on the home choice list there has been no announcements of a plan to enable people to be able to access long term homes and accommodation for so many families and children. A long-term plan is required.  A home is something that everyone needs and has a right to.”

The Methodist Church is part of the Let’s End Poverty movement, calling on political leaders to make tackling poverty a core priority ahead of the next General Election.

In response to the budget, individuals and groups are invited to write to their MP to ask them how they will raise poverty up the political agenda. You can use the digital action to find your MP and send them a personalised email on the Let’s End Poverty website: https://letsendpoverty.co.uk/action/.

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