Salvation Army responds to the Government's Autumn Statement
published on 22 Nov 2023
The Salvation Army is warning that the Autumn Statement does not go far enough to support those who are struggling to barely keep their heads above water while facing homelessness, long term unemployment and deep-seated poverty.
Some measures were welcomed, especially increasing the rate of the local housing allowance but the church and charity is gravely concerned that these measures will fail to address the widening poverty gap.
Territorial Co-ordinator for Justice and Reconciliation Major Nick Coke said:
“Economic growth is important but it won’t reach people who have slipped deep into poverty and social exclusion in the last few years. The human cost and economic cost of neglecting policies which address rising poverty are too big and too damaging to ignore.
“These are the people who often come to The Salvation Army when they have nowhere else to turn. Parents who want to provide for their family but can’t afford to buy school uniforms, older people who want to work but need help to modernise their skills, young adults who want to sleep in a bed but are forced to sofa surf to avoid street sleeping. People in those circumstances just want the basics and this budget does not help them.
“Some people need some extra help to get them back on their feet. In our experience, when people are offered holistic support to gain employment and climb out of poverty, they take it. That tailored support is key to transforming lives and decreasing economic inactivity.”
The UK Government has committed to end rough sleeping, level up the country, boost employment levels and reduce economic inactivity. To achieve these promises The Salvation Army is calling for the UK Government to:
Ensure people can afford the basics
- Introduce the inflation-related rise in benefits in January 2024, at the same time as the reduction in employees’ National Insurance, so that people on the lowest income do not have to wait until April for the extra income that they need.
- Enshrine in law the amount people need to ensure the basic rate of Universal Credit at least covers the essentials, as called for by the Guaranteeing Essentials Campaign which The Salvation Army supports. Inflation for essentials such as food- on which poorer households spend a high proportion of their incomes- is still much higher than the headline rate of inflation, by which benefits have been raised.
- Set local targets on reducing economic inactivity and ensure local leaders have the investment they need to achieve these.
- Set up a cross-Government taskforce to tackle, with empathy and compassion, the reasons why people are not earning and are trapped in poverty.
Support rather than sanction those furthest from the job market
- Increase investment in specialist employment services like Employment Plus by ringfencing money from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to provide tailored and intensive support to those furthest away from work.
- For the Back to Work Plan to be effective, it must offer appropriate support to individuals needs and circumstances. Sanctions rarely work for people with multiple and complex barriers to employment. What is required is tailored and intensive support (which can include work placement if they are suitable and supported) that addresses the person, not the problems. The Salvation Army has found that when offering this holistic approach, very few people refuse to work.
End rough sleeping and support those who are homeless
- Government funding to tackle homelessness and rough sleeping should rise in line with inflation to help the sector meet the needs of those currently homeless or at risk of homelessness. This is especially vital for tackling some of the root causes of homelessness such as addictions and mental health.
- Local authorities should be obliged to set targets on the number of homeless people who are being provided with the required mental health and addiction support, alongside existing targets for providing accommodation.