Half a million children ‘will be in absolute poverty within a year in the UK’

The UK is sleepwalking into a ‘tsunami’ of poverty as soaring inflation pushes families onto the breadline, Labour has said.

Source > Metro

By Sam Courtney-Guy

17 May 2022 8:11 BST

The shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, Jonathan Ashworth, claimed 500,000 children ‘will be pushed into absolute poverty over the next year’.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday, he said: ‘We are facing a situation where 250,000 households – many families, many pensioners – will be destitute.

‘Rather than protecting people and families at the time of this cost-of-living crisis, ministers are walking into a tsunami.’

He reiterated Labour’s calls for a windfall tax on gas and oil companies, which the party claims could fund a subsidy package reducing the average energy bill by around a third, or £600 per year.

The government opposes the plan, saying it would ‘deter investment’ into infrastructure and renewables, but has refused to rule out a similar move in future.

But ministers face calls from within their own party to provide other forms of relief, with veteran Tory MP Michael Fabricant on Monday urging Rishi Sunak to raise benefits in line with prices.

ONS data revealed on Tuesday that real wages have fallen by 1.9% from a year earlier, the biggest decline since 2019, as payslips are not keeping up.

Growth in real total pay remained positive, due to rising average bonuses, but the squeeze is likely to worsen as inflation is on course to hit 10% by the end of the year.

Economists are expecting new figures on Wednesday to show a 9% in inflation, largely a consequence of the 54% increase in the energy price cap in April.

The measure is then likely to drop back down to 7 or 8% before continuing to rise again.

It comes after the Bank of England’s governor, Andrew Bailey warned Parliament of a ‘very big shock’ to households driven by ‘apocalyptic’ rises in global food prices.

But Mr Bailey said policy makers are largely ‘helpless’ in the face of a mounting assault of external shocks to the economy such as the Ukraine war.

Essential exports from Ukraine, the world’s biggest exporter of sunflower oil and a major supplier of wheat, have fallen by about 90% since Putin’s invasion.

Mr Bailey said crops planted this spring will have ‘no way’ making it out of the country, adding: ‘That is a major worry not just for this country but for the developing world.’

Other factors pumping up import prices include massive lockdowns in southern China and friction in the EU’s efforts to wean itself off Russian oil and natural gas.

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