We are all facing the biggest strain on our finances, of that there is no doubt. In fact, forecasts say that living standards here are expected to fall at the fastest annual rate since the mid-1950s and will take until at least 2024 to return to pre-Covid levels. Incidentally, records were only kept from the 1950s.
Labour have said that we are £1,600 worse off. That tax and benefit changes have cost us £1,100 a year, and that living standards have fallen for 5 years. The conservatives ‘beg to differ’.
With the Office for Budget Responsibility stating that 2022-2023 will see the biggest fall in living standards in the UK since records began and as the National Insurance rise and the energy price cap lift push people further into hardship, Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt and Minister for Finance and Local Government, Rebecca Evans, have set out the package of support that the Welsh Government have developed to help the most vulnerable in society and called for more action from the UK Government.
Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt said…..
“Despite widespread calls on the UK Government to deliver more support through the spring statement to help people who are struggling to meet the rising cost of household bills, the Chancellor announced an increase of just £27 million in the Welsh Government’s resource funding for 2022-23.
The cost-of-living crisis is affecting every household across Wales, disgracefully, we have people that are being forced to make the unfortunate decision of whether to heat or to eat. This is completely unacceptable for a modern day society. If the UK Government were serious about tackling the problem we would see real solutions and not soundbites about levelling up, when it’s clear for all to see, they’re levelling the country down.
Despite the lack of support and leadership from the UK Government, in Wales we are doing all we can, with the powers we have, to deliver for the most vulnerable. Over the past few months, we have been working with partner organisations, the third sector and community leaders to develop a series of targeted packages to help the most vulnerable in our society deal with this cost-of-living crisis.”
The Minister for Finance and Local Government Rebecca Evans outlined the £380 million package of support that the Welsh Government has developed, including the Winter Fuel Support Scheme and the Cost-of-Living payment.
The Minister said……
“Since last November, we have invested more than £380 million in a package of support for low income households to meet the immediate and severe pressures on living costs. This included funding for the Winter Fuel Support Scheme which provided a £200 payment for eligible households to help meet the cost of essential bills over the winter. . We will also provide additional support for fuel costs for the coming winter and are considering how we can widen the scheme to ensure more people receive the £200 payment.
The package of support will also fund a £150 cost-of-living payment for households in Council tax bands A-D and to all households who receive support from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme.
A further £25m is available to local authorities in the form of a discretionary fund to provide additional and targeted support for households struggling with the massive surge in the costs of living. A further £15m has been made available for the Discretionary Assistance Fund to provide financial support for those experiencing extreme financial pressures, extending the additional support until the end of March 2023. In addition to this, we will continue to put pressure on the UK Government to use the significant levers they have to support the most vulnerable through the difficult times ahead.”
Finally the Minister for Social Justice, Jane Hutt added…..
“As a government we are determined to do all we can to support those who find themselves vulnerable at this time and take the steps needed to build resilience in our communities. I‘m delighted to be hosting a second cost-of-living summit in the summer when we will look again at more we can do, working with partners, to address the inequalities that the current crisis has brought so starkly into focus.
Despite the complete lack of leadership and real action from the UK Government, we in the Welsh Government will continue to work in partnership with our communities to deliver for the most vulnerable in our society.”
Here is a detailed list of the Welsh Government’s support packages to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.
- A £150 cost-of-living payment for all households in properties in council tax bands A to D and to all households which receive support from the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in all council tax bands.
- A £25m fund for a discretionary scheme, enabling local authorities to provide support to households with their living costs.
- A £200 Winter Fuel Support Scheme payment in 2021-22 for eligible households to meet the cost of essential bills through the winter and a further fuel support scheme in 2022-23 to be launched in the autumn with broader eligibility criteria so more households can benefit from the £200 payment..
- A further £2.84 million was allocated to relieve the pressures of increasing demand on food banks and support action to help tackle food poverty. This built on the £2 million investment which we provided for the third year running to support community food organisations to help tackle food poverty and address food insecurity.
- As part of the 2022-23 final budget, a further £15m has been made available for the Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF). This will help extend flexibilities until March 2023, ensuring more people receive emergency financial support when they need it. This figure is in addition to the fund budget uplift of £7m per annum for the next three years.
- We are extending DAF support throughout the summer and winter up to the end of March 2023 for off-grid households which are unable to afford their next delivery of oil or LPG due to extreme financial hardship. This will help those households with up to £250 for a one-off oil payment or up to three payments of £70 for LPG.
- Welsh Government have also agreed to extend the current grant funding for the Single Advice Fund until March 2023.
- In October 2021, we launched our second national benefit take-up campaign, to raise people’s awareness and encourage them to contact Advicelink Cymru for information on accessing the benefits they are entitled to. In addition, on 21 March 2022, we relaunched our council tax ‘green pig’ campaign to raise awareness of the wide range of support households can receive with their council tax, and urge people to find out if they are eligible.
- We have also provided financial support in recognition of the pressures facing particular groups: in March we announced an additional one off payment of £100 to every child or young person eligible for PDG Access for the upcoming school year; more than 57,000 unpaid carers will receive a £500 payment in recognition of the pivotal role they played during the pandemic; approximately 53,000 registered care home workers, domiciliary care workers and Personal Assistants in Wales will also receive a payment of £1,498 (gross) alongside the introduction of the real living wage.