Government Budget doesn’t go far enough to help struggling households

The lack of support means they face a very bleak winter

Thousands of struggling households will reach breaking point this winter. The latest government Budget doesn’t go far enough to address the issues they face.

In Kent alone, more than 9,300 households are at risk of homelessness due to the economic impact of the pandemic. The autumn budget offered some relief to a small number of people in very specific circumstances, but many are still facing an incredibly difficult winter.

Porchlight is preparing for an increase in the amount of people needing help. There was good news in the budget around funding to help tackle homelessness, but it’s not yet clear if this will be enough to make a difference.

Here’s what the new budget means for people in Kent who are struggling and the organisations that support them:

Affordable housing remains out of reach for many

In response to the UK’s housing crisis, the government pledged £11.5 billion to build up to 180,000 affordable homes by 2026. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near enough - research suggests that we need to be building 145,000 affordable homes each year until 2031.

To make matters worse, this plan was announced a year ago and simply repeated in this week’s budget. This means we’re nowhere nearer to solving the housing issue than we were last year.

And although the Government says these new homes will be affordable, it’s unclear what this means. Much housing that is classed as ‘affordable’ is still far beyond the reach of the majority of people who need it most.

We urge the Government to use this opportunity to build more social housing that people can truly afford to live in.

Here in Kent, many people are unable to get on the housing ladder and the cost of renting is higher than other parts of England

Welfare payments aren’t covering the cost of living

When the pandemic began, Universal Credit payments were increased by £20 per week. Despite widespread warnings, the Government has now reduced payments to pre-pandemic levels, potentially forcing many thousands of people into poverty.

Now, the Government has introduced measures for those in low-paid work who claim Universal Credit to top-up their wages. The ‘taper rate’ - the by which amount Universal Credit payments are reduced for every pound someone earns - will be cut from 63p to 55p.

But people who rely on Universal Credit because they are unable to work will not benefit from this scheme. Nor will those who are still paid through the so-called ‘legacy benefits’ such as Jobseekers Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance. These people are facing a very bleak winter.

The national living wage won’t be enough to live on

It was announced that the national living wage will soon be raised to £9.50 per hour. But the Living Wage Foundation warns this isn’t enough for people to survive on now that living costs have increased. It will release its latest calculations for a truly liveable wage on 15 November.

In six of our local authorities (Ashford, Folkestone & Hythe, Gravesham, Maidstone, Swale and Thanet), resident earnings are below the national average

Homelessness funding – will it be enough?

Porchlight is anticipating a homelessness crisis this winter, so we welcome the announcement of £640 million a year to address this issue. It’s a significant increase to the amount being spent on homelessness before the pandemic… however, it’s also less than the government spent on homelessness at this point last year.

The question we now face: is £640 million enough to follow through on all the progress that was made to tackle homelessness during the pandemic? During lockdown, many people, including those who had been on the streets for years, were brought inside. But recovering from homelessness takes time, stable housing and intensive support. It’s currently unclear if the £640 million will be enough to see this important work through to the end.

It’s also unclear whether or not any of this money will be used to continue the Government’s Housing First schemes. These offer specialist support to people with very complex needs who can struggle to maintain their recovery in traditional supported housing.

Porchlight runs its own Housing First schemes which will be unaffected, but we would like to see the government commit to continued investment in Housing First as a solution to homelessness.

It's unclear if £640 million is enough to see work done tackle homelessness during the pandemic through to the end

Crisis in social care not addressed

People we work with often have very complex needs – they often need intensive support from the health and social care system to recover.

The budget confirmed there will be increased funding for social care in the future, but this won’t go far enough to address years of chronic underfunding in the sector. It also does nothing to help the many people who are struggling to access support right now. This care shortage is leaving families with no choice but to provide unpaid care or pay huge sums to ensure their loved ones get help.

The Government needs to lay out immediate plans to reform social care and commit to the long-term funding necessary to make these a reality.

Future funding remains uncertain

The pressure on services is growing but local authorities (who fund some Porchlight services) are having to make tough decisions about how money will be spent in the future.

The Government has committed to increasing the budgets of local authorities, but these increases could likely be wiped out by inflation. If this happens, many councils will be forced to either raise council tax for residents or cut vital services. Some may have to do both.

We need long-term investment in local services so that councils, and health and housing providers can continue to work together to tackle the stark inequalities that have been intensified by the pandemic.