Dr Sarah Marie Hall, Lecturer in Human Geography at The University of Manchester blogs on what she’d like to see in the Chancellor’s Budget to help low-income families.
- Many expect austerity as usual from the Budget – even though austerity continues to have a disastrous impact on many families and communities across the UK
- Austerity has impacted young people’s employment, education and health along with creating personal and financial crises for the older generation.
- Without a Brexit deal, life will only get tougher for low-income groups
- Budget announcements such as an end to the benefit freeze and a full review Universal Credit would go some way to helping low-income families.
The impact of austerity
As the Chancellor of the Exchequer prepares for his Autumn 2017 Financial Statement, many critical social science researchers, like myself, are braced for ‘austerity as usual’: a fixation on reducing national debt (the ‘deficit’), the continuation of public sector cuts in both real and relative terms, and yet more punitive policies aimed at welfare recipients; whilst at the same time offering tax giveaways to the wealthiest in our society.
As my own research demonstrates, austerity continues to have a disastrous impact on many families and communities across the UK, as a period of protracted state investment that’s been going on now for almost a decade.
There are oft-voiced concerns within academia and civil society for what this means for generations of young people who have spent their formative years in the shadow of austerity and the impacts this has had on their employment, educational and health prospects, as well as for aging generations hitting simultaneous personal and financial crises.
Brexit – hitting low-income households hardest
How this Shakespearean-esq tragedy will play out beneath the backdrop of Brexit remains to be seen, although media reports are already emerging that suggest the lowest income families will be hardest hit if the UK government does not secure a trade deal. This is compounded by a recent report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that benefit cuts will leave low-income households in the UK more exposed to the next economic recession. It is, of course, also in the context of deep and divisive changes to welfare under the guise of Universal Credit – the mechanism for disseminating social security benefits – which have been shown to have distinct gendered impacts.
Announcements to ease the pain
Thus, and to echo some of the recommendations from the Intersecting Inequalities report by the Women’s Budget Group and Runnymede – the first intersectional analysis of the impacts of austerity on BME women in the UK – of which I am a co-author, where families are concerned I would like to see the following in the budget this week:
- An end to the benefit freeze, linking annual increases in benefits and tax credits to the cost of living and/or average wages
- A full review Universal Credit, ending the six week wait for payments, allowing for payments to be split between partners and improving the work allowance and incentives for second earners
- The removal of arbitrary caps on the amount of benefits that a household can claim ensuring the level of benefit support is based on need
In short, and as a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation similarly states, I would like to see a budget that takes low income families into account, though I remain highly sceptical on whether the government will seize this opportunity. I do hope I am proven wrong.