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Call for Government to guarantee essentials for low-income households

Housing sector organisations have joined a national call to increase the basic rate of Universal Credit to cover the cost of basic essentials.

Karbon Homes, the Chartered Institute of Housing, PlaceShapers, End Furniture Poverty, Communities that Work and the National Housing Federation have joined a collective of 90 organisations across the country in signing a #GuaranteeEssentials letter, asking politicians to help the millions of households still going without essentials such as food and clothing, by increasing the basic rate of UC to reflect the rising costs of these items.

The letter, headed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Trussell Trust, outlines that the price increase of these everyday items, such as food, clothing and other vital household items, has soared since 2021 and, as a result, nine in ten low-income households on Universal Credit are currently going without.

Paul Fiddaman, Chief Executive of Karbon Homes, said: “As a housing provider, we see, first-hand, the challenges our customers are facing each day and the importance of our social security system in acting as the safety net it’s intended to.

“That’s why we’re backing this campaign and calling on politicians to ensure that the basic rate of Universal Credit at least covers the cost of life’s essentials, with support never being pulled below that level.”

Research by JRF and the Trussell Trust published earlier this year showed how the shortfall between the basic rate of Universal Credit and the cost of essentials, such as food, bills and vital household items, is a key driver behind increasing levels of hardship.

The standard allowance of Universal Credit is only £85 a week for a single adult. That’s at least £35 a week below a conservative estimate of what’s needed to afford these essentials.

Katie Schmuecker, JRF Principal Policy Adviser, said: “Our social security system is meant to give us peace of mind that the support will be there when we need it. But the price of food we all need to eat and the bills we all must pay are still too often outpacing the income of those on Universal Credit, many of whom will be in work.

We must remind political leaders that, whether they like it or not, this is driving millions of people into hardship and it is not a problem that will go away without bold and concerted action.

“It is time to build a system that is needs-tested – where the support people get is linked to the actual costs of essentials to meet basic needs.”

Over two thirds of people in poverty (69%) would gain from the Essentials Guarantee which would benefit everyone in receipt of Universal Credit. It would also lift around 1.8 million people out of poverty altogether, including 600,000 children.

Earlier this year Karbon Homes released its Fair Foundations report that called on the Government to reduce regional inequalities and support left behind communities by focussing on policies aimed at strengthening the foundational economy, the essential goods and services available, and increasing people’s residual household income (after tax, benefits and essentials are paid for).

This includes raising the basic UC rate.

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