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Autumn Statement must index-link benefits and unfreeze housing benefit.

By Research & Campaigns Team

We hope Autumn leaves behind the benefits freeze.

Autumn Statement. Citizens Advice is calling on the government to uprate benefits in line with inflation and unfreeze Local Housing Allowance.

In his Autumn Statement on 22 November the chancellor must commit to uprating benefits or leave millions of people on low-incomes significantly worse off.

A policy report from Citizens Advice in the summer showed millions of people across England and Wales ‘Living on Empty’*. They are doing the right things but still not having enough money to cover essential costs. Now, things could get much worse.

Essential changes

Index-linking and raising housing benefit are essential changes. But many people will also need other policy improvements including making benefit deductions realistic and targeted support on energy bills.

In a pre-Autumn Statement briefing last week Resolution Foundation, a think tank, said failure to index-link benefits would ‘reduce the income of 9m households by an average of £470 per year’.  Even with uprating, ‘the poorest half of the population are likely to see disposable incomes fall around 1% next year’.

In the 6 months to end September 2023 CAEE clients asked us for help with over 1300 benefit and tax credit issues. Over the period they raised an average 116 debt problems each month.

Once in debt, people are finding it more difficult to escape. Arrears stack up and current systems often contain too many hurdles for those in debt to get a fresh start.

Housing benefit

At the same time it is vital that the chancellor change policy on housing benefit.

Since the government froze Local Housing Allowance in 2020, private rents have sky-rocketed. Failing to unfreeze LHA will force more tenants into debt and add to the already fast-growing problem of homelessness.

In Epsom & Ewell last month there were no properties available for rent within the LHA. Surrey-wide, the same picture emerged from research carried out jointly by Surrey Local Citizens Advice (Chart).

Surrey LHA
Local rents have left housing benefit far behind. Source: Citizens Advice Surrey.
Special thanks to colleagues at CA Woking.

* Living on Empty: a policy report from Citizens Advice, Morgan Wild, 10/07/23
** Preparing the pitch, Autumn Statement 2023 preview, Resolution Foundation, 06/11/23

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