Cost of living report backed by former PM Gordon Brown

Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has joined with 56 faith groups, charities and politicians to call on the government to take urgent action to bridge the cost of living gap faced by the lowest income families.

The call responds to a report written by poverty expert and Loughborough University Professor Donald Hirsch which reveals the gap between the support the government is currently offering to households and the anticipated rise in living costs.

The report concludes that the current flat-rate payments offered by the government will fall at least £1,600 short of making up for recent changes to living costs and benefits faced by a couple with two children.

The report assesses the extent to which cost of living measures announced in May will compensate for three blows experienced by millions of low-income families: cuts in Universal Credit, inadequate uprating of benefits with accelerating inflation in April and the further rise in the energy cap anticipated in October.

It shows that the package of support measures falls well short of making up for these losses, even with the October increase in the cap. 

The groups, supported by Gordon Brown, are urging the Government to consider appropriate measures to bridge the shortfall in family finances, which is only anticipated to rise into the winter months.

Some charities are calling for benefits to be uprated in line with inflation, and for debt deductions from Universal Credit to be paused.

The report is endorsed by 56 charities, faith groups and politicians, many of whom are providing front-line support for families hit by rising costs, including the Trussell Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Child Poverty Action Group as well as the Methodist Church, the Bishop of Durham, the Hindu Council UK and the Muslim Council of Britain.

It has also been endorsed by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Metro Mayors, Tracy Brabin of West Yorkshire, Andy Burnham of Greater Manchester, Jamie Driscoll of North Tyne Combined Authority, Sadiq Khan of Greater London, Dan Norris of West of England, Steve Rotheram of Liverpool City Region and Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees.

The report contains stories of first-hand experience of the impact of the rise in the cost of living. Lowri receives Universal Credit and cares for her father and daughter.

Her food and fuel bills have doubled, and she’s had to sell her daughter’s bike to make ends meet: “I have spent the last 5 years living in survival mode, just about surviving each day, worrying about money constantly.

“I am emotionally and mentally exhausted living like this. It is not living, merely existing. There is just no way people can manage to pay all their bills, and all we are doing is existing to pay bills. Terrified is an understatement.”

Prof Hirsch said: “The shortfall families are facing between skyrocketing costs and the support government have offered continues to grow. Families were falling behind with the anticipated rise in costs even when the measures were announced, and since then the food and energy costs forecast for this winter have continued to rise sharply. 

“The flat rate emergency payments announced so far leave families with children particularly far behind, because they are not sensitive to the extra costs that children bring.

“A new package needs to address the fact that by the autumn, living costs could have risen by as much as 14% for low-income families, who have received only a 3% increase in benefits.

“An additional across-the-board uprating to Universal Credit and other benefits would address family need far more effectively than further flat rate payments.”

The former Prime Minister Gordon Brown commissioned the report, after facing the realities of rising costs alongside churches and charities in the UK

He said: “This is a crisis that Britain hasn’t seen in decades. The most urgent and immediate challenge for the incoming Prime Minister is to ensure that families with children and disabled people aren’t neglected to struggle through the challenges ahead.

“We need targeted support for families on the lowest incomes, not just cuts in taxes or flat rate payments which don’t account for the specific needs of people on the brink of poverty.

“There should be no argument that a permanent increase in Universal Credit is the only way to take a sure step towards a solution.

"This crisis goes far beyond politics; this is a moral issue - our responsibilities to our neighbours and in particular to those who have the least and whose needs are the greatest.

“The incoming Prime Minister has a moral responsibility to ensure that everyone has enough to live on, through this crisis and beyond. We cannot be at ease when millions are ill at ease and cannot rest content as long as there is so much discontent.

“Our society will be stronger when we help the weak and will be richer when we help the poor."

Revd Graham Thompson, President of the Methodist Church in Britain, who have endorsed the report, said: “Churches and other faith groups are on the front line of offering support to families who are already being swept under by rising costs. We know that millions of families aren’t simply making hard choices between heating and eating, but are having to go without both completely.

“If people aren't given enough support to live, we don't dare to imagine what will happen this winter. The government now have a duty to step up and take firm and long-lasting action to ensure not only that this crisis doesn't deepen, but that it doesn't happen again."

Read the report:

The full list of signatories to the report is:

Rabbi Charley Baginsky, CEO, Liberal Judaism

Revd Fiona Bennett, Moderator of the General Assembly, United Reformed Church

Lord John Bird, Founder, The Big Issue

Anthony Boateng, Vice-President, The Methodist Church in Britain

Paul Bodenham, Programme Leader for Social Action, Caritas Diocese of Nottingham

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire

Nicola Brady, General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland 

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Rt Revd Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, Chair of ChurchWorks Commission on Covid Recovery

Heidi Chow, Executive Director, Debt Justice

John Coleby, CEO, Caritas Westminster

Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty

Revd R Creswell, Chair, The Methodist Fund for Human Need

Archbishop Leo William Cushley, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh

Colin Date, Acting Chair, Christian Concern for One World

Claire Donovan, Campaigns Manager, End Furniture Poverty

Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister of Wales

Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North Tyne Combined Authority

Andy Elvin, Chief Executive, TACT Fostering

Revd Archie Ford, Moderator, United Free Church of Scotland

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive, Child Poverty Action Group

Ben Gilchrist, CEO, Caritas Shrewsbury

Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary, Baptist Union of Great Britain

Revd James Green, Executive Director, Together Liverpool

Ruth Harvey Leader, The Iona Community

Mia Hasenson-Gross, Director, René Cassin

Rev Karen Hendry, Acting Convenor, Faith Impact Forum, Church of Scotland

Joseph Howes, Chair, End Child Poverty Coalition and CEO of Buttle UK

Imran Hussain, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Action for Children

Revd/Parchg Beti-Wyn James, President Union of Welsh Independents/Llywydd Undeb yr Annibynwyr Cymraeg 

Archbishop Andrew John, Archbishop of Wales and Bishop of Bangor, Church in Wales

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Rajnish Kashyap, General Secretary, Hindu Council UK

Peter Kelly, Director, Poverty Alliance

Paul Kissack, Chief Executive, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Red Dr Ellen Loudon, Chair Together Liverpool

Peter Lynas, UK Director,  Evangelical Alliance

Paul McNamee, Editor, The Big Issue

Jon Miles, Senior Development Worker, Transforming Communities Together

Zara Mohammed, Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain

Dan Norris, Mayor of the West of England

Elizabeth Palmer, CEO, St Vincent de Paul Society (England & Wales)

Taidgh Pledger, Political Officer, National Education Union

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol

Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, Chair, Justice & Peace Commission, Diocese of Westminster

Revd Paul Rochester, General Secretary, Free Churches Group

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of the Liverpool City Region

Bishop Mike Royal, General Secretary, Churches Together in England

Rev Ian Rutherford, Chairperson, Greater Manchester Food Security Action Network

Adam Scorer, Chief Executive, National Energy Action

Paul Southgate, Chair, National Justice and Peace Network

Most Revd Mark Strange, Bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church 

Paula Stringer, UK Chief Executive, Christians Against Poverty

Anna Taylor, Executive Director, Food Foundation

Revd Graham Thompson, President, Methodist Church in Britain

Anna Turley, Chair, North East Child Poverty Commission

Matthew Van Duyvenbode, CSO , Trussell Trust

Natalie Williams, Chief Executive, Jubilee+

Jo Wittams, Interim Executive Director, The Equality Trust


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 22/161

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