Chancellor’s pledges offer families zero protection from financial hardship
22 Nov 2017
Today’s Budget announcements on Universal Credit and the minimum wage will do nothing to stem rising inequality, writes Assistant Policy Officer Chris Ross
In today’s Budget the Chancellor committed £1.5billion to addressing concerns with the delivery of Universal Credit and announced the removal of the initial seven-day waiting period for processing claims. However, this will still leave families waiting five weeks for a claim to be processed.
Other reforms to the system include ensuring that 100% of advancements are received within five days of applying, and paying housing benefit for the first two weeks for new Universal Credit claimants.
These reforms do little to ameliorate the financial hardship Universal Credit will impose on children, young people and families. We have previously called for a complete halt to the roll-out of the programme.
The Chancellor also announced an increase in the minimum wage for over-25s, to £7.83 an hour, with no change for under-25s. This will further increase wage inequality experienced by young people across the UK. We are deeply concerned that young people continue to be discriminated against in this way, and hope that the Scottish Government will use its powers to mitigate this inequality.
Stamp Duty for first time buyers has been abolished in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in a move that on the surface appears to benefit young people struggling to buy their first home. It is now up to the Scottish Government to decide if they wish to follow suit. However, early indications from the Office for Budget Responsibility indicate the changes may not benefit first-time buyers.
The budget commits an extra £2billion for the Scottish budget. We will advocate for this funding to be used to benefit children, young people and families and offset some of the other announcements made today.
The Chancellor also committed to setting aside £3billion to deal with whatever is the outcome of the Brexit negotiations. This does little to quell our previously articulated fears about what impact leaving the EU may have on children and young people.
One positive is the tobacco tax, which will see the price of cigarettes increase in line with inflation plus 2%. This should help further reduce smoking among children, young people and parents. However if little is done to tackle the issues that contribute to smoking such as low pay or stress, these measures may not have the desired effect.