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The Cost of Living Crisis

Hannah Lennox, our Welfare Rights Advice Clinic Manager considers the impact of the crisis on those in receipt of benefits.
On Friday the Government’s response to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee’s second report on the Cost of Living was published. In July, the Committee reported that the cost of living crises “has laid bare” “long standing problems with the UK’s social security system” and that the “crisis is impacting heavily on those already most vulnerable.” In that report, the Committee recommended the DWP engage with other organisations to ensure those entitled to benefits were aware of them and could access them.
The Government stated it uses a range of ‘advertising’ methods to reach people, referring to additional digital media use, including YouTube videos. There was no indication however, that the Government was keen to engage with organisations that have connections with potential benefit claimants, nor to target their ‘advertising’ at previously identified vulnerable groups who continue to fall through the social security safety net. As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report highlighted in May 2022, claimant’s often feel like they “wouldn’t even know where to start to apply for [certain benefits and additional grants]…Of course [the DWP] don’t tell us this information, the government announces it, then goes ha, you have to go find it yourself!
The Government’s response referred to the GOV.UK website, where information is available about benefits and the practicalities of claiming them. Indeed, useful basic information is available on GOV.UK regarding most UK benefits. However, the website rarely covers exceptions to the standard rules, nor meaningfully signposts to other sources of advice. The links to independent benefit calculators are helpful but there is no guarantee that an individual searching for information will find the best advice agency for their circumstances.
The Government also referred to “the £650 cost of living payment for eligible people on means tested benefits.” This is a drop in the ocean given that by 2019/2020 (pre-pandemic) 6.5million people were already living in very deep poverty (below 40% of median income after housing costs). It also fails to address the harsh reality that if a claimant had not got their Universal Credit (UC) claim in by the right date, or received no UC in the particular qualifying month, their household totally missed out on the £650 payment. The government have not yet published the ‘qualifying date’ for the next cost of living payment, despite it being expected this autumn. Child Poverty Action Group reported in August that 4 million children are already living in poverty and with average energy bills expected to be £2,200 higher in 2022-2023 than the year before, they expect a “desperately difficult winter ahead.”
BPP’s Welfare Rights Legal Advice Clinic advises clients about their rights to social security assistance from the state. We advise people what assistance is available to them, help them to access that assistance by completing claim forms and we challenge erroneous decisions regarding claimants’ entitlements through complaints and appeals processes.
If you need advice, please email or call us on 03300603444