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Government growth plan ‘more about bankers’ bonuses than helping hungry kids’

Stocks of food at a food bank (Jonathan Brady/PA)
Stocks of food at a food bank (Jonathan Brady/PA)

A “hammer-blow” to the UK’s poor families was delivered by the Government in its plan for growth, which was “more about bankers’ bonuses than helping hungry kids”, charities have said.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng set out a series of measures in his so-called mini-budget on Friday, including abolishing the top rate of income tax for the highest earners, axing the cap on bankers’ bonuses, and adding restrictions to the welfare system.

But he brought no news of extra targeted support for the poorest families who are “desperately struggling” with the cost-of-living crisis.

At least £1,200 for eight million of the most vulnerable households has previously been announced by the Government, but charities say they need more support to get through the winter.

The Government was accused of delivering a set of announcements that “overwhelmingly benefit the country’s wealthiest households”, with charities saying many children will be facing a bleak, cold and hungry Christmas.

Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save the Children, said: “The Prime Minister said she would deliver on the cost-of-living crisis. Instead, the UK Government has delivered tax cuts to help the richest and a hammer-blow to low-income families.

“The Chancellor has prioritised bankers’ bonuses over helping vulnerable children through the cost-of-living crisis, whose hard-working parents face impossible choices.

“Today’s announcements overwhelmingly benefit the country’s wealthiest households, meanwhile almost four million children risk going cold and hungry this winter.

“Growth is a welcome goal, but that growth must include investment that helps all children have a fair start in life.”

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said the announcement was “more about bankers’ bonuses than helping hungry kids”.

Chief executive Alison Garnham said: “Today was a vital opportunity to provide reassurance and support to those who need it the most – but instead the Government risks a collision with reality, and the four million kids currently living in poverty in the UK will be forced to pay the price.

“In the short term benefits must rise with inflation as soon as possible, the benefit cap must be scrapped, and deductions paused to help families get through winter.

“And sooner rather than later Government must grapple with the fact that our social security system is there for a reason – and investing in it is the best way to keep kids and their parents out of poverty.”

Action for Children said growth cannot “be at the expense of children’s life chances”, and called for urgent, targeted support through the benefits system.

Director of policy and campaigns Imran Hussain said: “If the new Chancellor has money to spend on tax cuts for those who are relatively better off, then he has the money to spend throwing a lifeline to low-income families who are desperately struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. Many now face a bleak Christmas.

“Whilst the energy price guarantee will help offset the near apocalyptic rises that had been predicted, it doesn’t address the mounting pressures families face with food, fuel, housing and other costs that continue to climb.”

Mark Russell, chief executive at the Children’s Society, said targeted support for struggling families was “glaringly absent” from the plan.

He said: “Changes to the tax system right now are barking up the wrong tree.

“Spending billions in handouts to benefit those on the highest incomes but failing miserably to meet the needs of families on the lowest incomes who will still be struggling to heat their homes this winter.

“We need to see far more direct support for families bearing the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis.”