Salvation Army urges new PM must tackle poverty

published on 25 Oct 2022

The Salvation Army is urging the new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to use his first few days in office to ensure people on benefits can still afford to eat, pay their rent, and travel to and from work or school.

The simplest way to make this happen would be for benefits to rise in line with inflation. 

Salvation Army Lieutenant-Colonel Dean Pallant said:

“We know difficult economic decisions have to be made but we can’t ask the most vulnerable people in society to forgo eating, heating and paying rent so the nation can balance the books.

“Measures by the Government to tackle rising energy prices are welcomed but the cost of everything has spiralled. The people queuing for our foodbanks and using our church halls to stay warm are often working or desperately trying to work and relying on Universal Credit to make ends meet.  Our officers across the country are helping these people get through another week with emergency support like food parcels or providing warm coats but need is growing. We are facing a poverty crisis.”

On The Salvation Army frontline

Sara and her husband have two children, one of whom is autistic, and they live in a one-bedroomed flat.  They are both employed but can’t work enough hours to pay for the basics. Sara recently had to use her son’s disability allowance to buy school uniforms. “When I’ve applied for a crisis fund to help pay for uniform, I’ve been told we earn too much. I have to use food support at The Salvation Army, I only go there because they are discreet. I won’t ask unless I’m desperate.”

The Resolution Foundation* estimate that an additional 600,000 people will slip into poverty unless benefits are uprated in line with inflation. This would bring the total rise in poverty by 2023/24 to 3.5 million people.

The Salvation Army is calling for:

  • all benefits for people on low incomes to keep up with inflation
  • an increase in housing benefit, so it covers the full cost of rent
  • existing Universal Credit debt to be covered in the Government’s 60-day ‘Breathing Space’ scheme, giving people more time to make repayments.

Lieutenant-Colonel Dean Pallant continued:

“This is not only the morally right thing to do but also fiscally prudent as poverty affects physical and mental health and increases the risk of debt and homelessness. Helping people back from the impact of poverty takes love, time and frontline services like the NHS and employment support.  What happens when we are faced with the bill for widespread chronic poverty?”

The Salvation Army runs services designed to help those who have slipped into poverty to get back on their feet including supporting people into jobs, debt advisors, afterschool clubs with hot meals for children, and help to live independently after being homeless.

The Salvation Army is also calling for medium term to help people recover from poverty and regain their independence. This includes:  

  • expanding free childcare provision, so parents can work or train
  • mandating local leaders to set targets to reduce economic inactivity through Levelling Up funds to help people that have been excluded from the job market
  • a new cross-Government task force to tackle, with empathy and compassion, the reasons people are not earning and are trapped in poverty.

Find out how we are helping those hardest hit by the cost of living crisis