More than 90 charities unite behind a powerful call on party leaders to guarantee essentials for low-income households amid rising hardship

Posted on: 19th April 2023

Over 90 organisations have asked politicians what they intend to do to help the millions of households still going without essentials.

In a letter to all UK political party leaders, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), the British Liver Trust, the Trussell Trust and other NGOs, charities and professional bodies say that, despite living in one of the wealthiest countries in the world, nine in ten low-income households on Universal Credit are currently going without essentials.

The letter comes as the Trussell Trust is due to reveal how many emergency food parcels were distributed by food banks in its network over the past year, next Wednesday (26th May).

Pamela Healy OBE, chief executive at the British Liver Trust said: "The British Liver Trust's helpline has seen a concerning increase in calls from people with liver disease who are struggling to make ends meet due to the cost-of-living crisis. Many are finding it difficult to afford basic necessities such as food and housing, which are critical to managing their condition. We urge the government to take urgent action and ensure that those most in need have access to the essentials they require. We stand together with over 90 UK charities in calling for the government to implement the Essentials Guarantee, which would be a vital step in addressing this urgent issue."

The cost-of-living crisis, which has seen the prices of everyday items like food and clothing soar since 2021, has made this problem worse. But the UK’s inadequate social security system hasn’t provided enough help for years. 2.4 million people experienced destitution at some point in 2019, up 54%
since 2017.

Research by JRF and the Trussell Trust published earlier this year showed how the shortfall betweenthe 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. Often people receive even less as they face deductions from their support which are automatically taken at unaffordable rates, for example to pay off debts to the UK government.

It’s why so many organisations from those helping single parents of young children to others helping people with mental health problems or long-term disabilities want the governments of the UK to back the Essentials Guarantee. This means ensuring that the basic rate of Universal Credit at least covers the cost of life’s essentials, with support never being pulled below that level.

Katie Schmuecker, JRF Principal Policy Advisor, said: “Every day sees another person’s circumstances change whether it’s losing their job, needing to care
for a sick family member or ending a relationship. 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 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 rather than the baseless system people have to suffer now.”