The chancellor should use today’s pre-budget report to tackle poverty and homelessness caused by the recession, campaigners say.
With unemployment at its highest level since the early 1990s, Oxfam is urging Alistair Darling to raise jobseekers allowance by £15 per week to protect people facing “a catastrophic fall in income”.
Homelessness charity Crisis says the chancellor’s package of spending pledges and tax cuts should build on recently announced policies aimed at supporting mortgage holders.
More radical measures are needed to help private tenants – “the hidden victims of the credit crunch”, according to chief executive Leslie Morphy – such as a two-month notice period to those being evicted due to repossession.
The government could solve a shortage of housing for people on low incomes by building more social housing across the country, the charity says, while local authorities should be required to relax “stringent” rules on temporary accommodation.
Oxfam is also calling for a dramatic expansion of the government’s £250 winter fuel payment to everyone on benefits and tax credits. The benefit is currently only available to people over 60.
Poverty levels “unacceptable”
Kate Wareing, director for UK poverty at Oxfam, said the government had “a real opportunity to protect those being hit by the current crisis, while at the same time developing a plan to tackle the long-term poverty that is unacceptable in one of the richest countries in the world”.
Kate Green, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, reiterated the organisation’s call for a £3bn package of benefits, to ensure the government’s target of halving child poverty is met by 2010.
She said this would give “our ailing economy a cash boost through family purses”, as poorer families were more likely to spend money in their local area.
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Oxfam – information on UK poverty
Child Poverty Action Group