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People in poverty must not pay the price for Brexit, says charities

A group of leading charities have urged the government to take ‘urgent steps’ to protect people and places in poverty from the financial consequences of Brexit, including no-deal.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), Shelter, Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group, Action for Children, National Children’s Bureau, Poverty Alliance, Turn2us, Barnardos and ATD Fourth World have sent an open letter to all MPs, calling on the Government to address the risks facing low-income households, and step up their contingency plans as Whitehall prepares for no deal.

With 14 million people already living in poverty, they warn that the risks posed by leaving the EU without a deal could lead to economic uncertainty and increases in the cost of living – pushing more people into hardship at a time when benefits are frozen.

Analysis by JRF suggests that, even based on the Bank of England’s projected inflation in the event of a smooth exit from the EU, persisting with the benefit freeze for another year will result in 10.7 million people in poverty, including children, missing out on £220 per year to help cover the increased cost of living, and 200,000 more people being pulled into poverty.

In the event of no deal, and potentially higher price rises, the impact could be more severe.

The open letter states: ‘As organisations who speak with and support families up and down the country every day, we know that many people are already facing impossible situations such as struggling to pay their rent or put food on the table for their children. As a country that believes in protecting each other from harm, this is not an acceptable situation.

‘There is widespread agreement that some level of economic and social disruption will follow Brexit at least in the short term and worst of all under a ‘no deal’ scenario. Low-income families will be worst affected, having already endured years of benefit cuts and freezes. The public services they rely upon are also under pressure due to the consequences of rising poverty. We need a new deal for low-income families to cushion the blow and this has prompted us to write to you.

‘Without pre-emptive action by the government there is potential for the already shamefully high rates of poverty in the UK to worsen further in the face of price and income shocks.’

‘We do not take a view on the merits of Brexit or otherwise. But we are clear we must protect people on low incomes from any short-term economic shocks. We believe these are appropriate and just measures. It is incumbent on the Government to protect struggling families in their no-deal contingency planning.’

The group has called on the government to bring forward an emergency stimulus package for areas with high poverty and economies exposed to disruption in trade caused by Brexit.

Thomas Barrett
Senior journalist - NewStart Follow him on Twitter

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