Budget overlooks families living in poverty, warn campaigners

Campaigners have lambasted Chancellor George Osborne for ignoring calls to protect the most vulnerable families who are set to feel the impact of changes to welfare provision next month.

In his Budget speech to parliament, Osborne said the measures set out for the economy would help families to cope with the cost of living.

But reacting to the speech, organisations that work with low-income families said the Chancellor had overlooked children, young people and families living in poverty.

Rhian Beynon, head of policy at charity Family Action, said: “We were disappointed there wasn’t more on poorer families and children. Under the government’s statutory obligations they really should have published a child poverty strategy by now and appointed a child poverty commission and they haven’t done that so it was very concerning that he didn’t take the opportunity to even briefly refer to what their plans are.

“There are 16 welfare changes coming into force in April, which are not going to be positive for the most vulnerable children and families, particularly in light of the 50 per cent increase in food prices in the past year and inflation of between four and five per cent.

“While a lot of people will welcome what he had to say about small businesses helping to support job creation, we wouldn’t agree with the premise that a strong economy starts solely from support for business. Some part of supporting a strong economy comes from getting those really vulnerable families back on their feet and into work, and strong welfare and services are a part of that picture.”

Beynon added that while an increase in the personal tax allowance announced by Osborne will benefit some low earners it will not make much difference to the very lowest paid or help those who are out of work.

Helen Donohoe, director of policy at Action for Children, said children were completely ignored in Osborne’s speech. “He didn’t mention children once. While he said lots about reducing the burden and there were lots of references to families, the people we work with are the most vulnerable. They don’t drive cars and they don’t engage with anything to do with gift aid. They certainly don’t take holidays.

“There was nothing in the Budget for us that really directly demonstrated the government’s commitment and understanding that people who are the most vulnerable in Britain today need support. It is not about private sector enterprise for them, it is about direct, hands-on, well-financed and resourced support.

“There is a whole population of people who feel they have been ignored by this Budget and who are not understood by the Chancellor and his colleagues.”

Dr Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, added: “Today’s measures need to be put in the context of [Osborne’s] cuts programme instigated last year. Various reforms have directly hit families with children. The painful package included the scrapping of the child trust fund, the end of universal child benefit, and the removal of the baby element of child tax credits. His new relief measures may fail to plug the hole in family budgets.”