Ministers must boost spending to ‘cushion the blow of Brexit' on poorest, charities warn

Posted On: 
15th February 2019

Ministers must take “urgent steps” to protect the poorest people in Britain from any possible financial hit after Brexit, major charities have warned.

A boy on his bike in a run-down area of Goldthorpe, Yorkshire
PA Images

In an open letter to MPs, a coalition of campaign groups said the “economic uncertainty” and cost of living hikes that could result from leaving the EU at a time when 14 million are already living in poverty risked “pushing more people into hardship”.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Shelter, Trussell Trust and Barnardos are among those urging ministers to up their contingency planning, especially in the case of a no-deal exit.

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It comes as ministers continue to push the EU for concessions on the controversial Irish backstop - which seeks to keep an open border on the island of Ireland in the event an alternative is not hammered out.

Fears are growing that without a deal the Commons can support the UK could crash out with nothing on 29 March.

The charities said Chancellor Philip Hammond must end the freeze on working-age benefits and tax credits that has been in place since 2016 at next month’s Spring Statement.

They cited Bank of England figures showing that maintaining the freeze could see families, often with children, losing out on £220 per year, with the impact even more “severe” if the UK quits the EU without a deal.

They also ramped up pressure on ministers to end the five-week wait for first-time Universal Credit recipients, days after Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd admitted that there was a link between the controversial policy and rising foodbank use.

And they called for an emergency stimulus package to help the poorest areas that could be especially hurt by any disruption in trade with Europe under a no-deal Brexit.

The open letter states: “As organisations who speak with and support families up and down the country every day, we know that many people are already facing impossible situations such as struggling to pay their rent or put food on the table for their children.

“As a country that believes in protecting each other from harm, this is not an acceptable situation.

“There is widespread agreement that some level of economic and social disruption will follow Brexit at least in the short term and worst of all under a ‘no deal’ scenario. Low income families will be worst affected, having already endured years of benefit cuts and freezes.

“The public services they rely upon are also under pressure due to the consequences of rising poverty. We need a new deal for low-income families to cushion the blow and this has prompted us to write to you."