Poor families in the UK have been dealt a “hammer blow” by the government in its growth plan, which was “more about rewarding bankers than helping starving children”, charities said.
Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng set out a series of measures in his so-called mini-budget on Friday, including scrapping the top rate of income tax for the highest earners, reducing the cap on bankers’ bonuses and adding restrictions to the welfare system.
But he gave no news of additional targeted support for the poorest families who are “desperately struggling” with the cost of living crisis.
The government has previously announced at least £1,200 for eight million of the most vulnerable households, but charities say they need more support to survive the winter.
The government was accused of delivering a package of messages that “overwhelmingly benefit the country’s wealthiest households”, with charities saying many children were facing a bleak, cold and hungry Christmas.
Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save the Children, said: “The Prime Minister said she could tackle the cost of living crisis. Instead, the UK government has delivered tax cuts to help the richest and hammered low-income families.
“The chancellor has prioritized bankers’ bonuses over helping children vulnerable to the cost-of-living crisis, whose hard-working parents face impossible choices.
“Today’s announcements will overwhelmingly benefit the nation’s wealthiest households, while almost four million children are at risk of cold and hunger this winter.
“Growth is a welcome goal, but that growth must include investment to help all children get a fair start in life.”
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said the announcement was “more about rewarding bankers than helping starving children”.
Chief executive Alison Garnham said: “Today was a vital opportunity to provide reassurance and support to those who need it most – but instead the Government is facing a collision with reality and the four million children living in poverty in the UK today are being forced to pay the price.
“In the short term benefits must rise as quickly as possible with inflation, the benefit cap must be removed and deductions must be stopped to help families survive the winter.
“And sooner rather than later the government will have to grapple with the fact that our social security system exists for a reason – and investing in it is the best way to keep children and their parents out of poverty.”
Action for Children said growth cannot come at the expense of children’s life chances and called for swift and targeted support through the benefits system.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns, said: “If the new chancellor has money to spend on tax cuts for the relatively better-off, he has money to spend on throwing a lifeline to low-income families who are desperately struggling with the cost of living crisis. Many have now a gloomy Christmas ahead.
“While the Energy Price Guarantee will help offset the predicted near-apocalyptic rise, it will not address the growing pressure on families to deal with food, fuel, housing and other costs that continue to rise.”
Mark Russell, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said targeted support for struggling families was “clearly missing” from the plan.
He said: “At the moment the changes to the tax system are barking up the wrong tree.
“We are spending billions in handouts to benefit the highest earners, but are failing miserably to meet the needs of the lowest income families who are still struggling to heat their homes this winter.
“We need to see much more direct support for families suffering from the cost of living crisis.”
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