POLITICS

Delay In Benefit Payments Will Leave Children 'Cold And Hungry', George Osborne Told

26/06/2013 16:51 BST
AP

Government plans to make people wait seven days before they can claim unemployment benefit will leave children "cold and hungry", anti-poverty campaigners have warned.

Under plans unveiled by George Osborne today, job seekers will also be made to attend the job centre every week as the chancellor sought to make a further £350m savings from the welfare budget.

Claimants who do not speak English will be required to attend language courses or face benefit cuts.

"We're doing these things because we know they help people stay off benefits and help those on benefits get back into work faster," he said.

But Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the chancellor was pursuing a policy that would hurt families on low incomes and lengthen foodbank queues.

"We’re talking about parents doing the right thing but who have very little in the way of savings to tide them over if they lose their job. There should be no doubt this will leave more families and children cold and hungry and push more families towards doorstep lenders and foodbanks," she said.

It is not just the unemployed who will have to wait seven days before being eligible to claim financial support. Under the plan "those earning less than the government expects them to" will also see benefit payments delayed.

Concerns have been raised about how the measures, which would come into force in 2015/16, will operate under the new Universal Credit (UC) benefit system which combines separate benefits into one payment.

Nicola Smith from the TUC has warned that a delay in UC can also mean a delay in benefits currently classified as child and working tax credits, housing benefit and council tax benefits.

"This policy sounds as if it will do far more than simply affect access to £71.70 of JSA [Job Seeker's Allowance] for unemployed claimants (hard as that would be by itself) – it looks as if it is also their rent, their bills and their children’s food costs which won’t be met," she said.

And welfare policy analyst Declan Gaffney said it was not clear from the Spending Review document how this problem would be addressed.

"The government needs to clarify how that would work," he told HuffPost UK. "It seems that the measures announced today will impact working poor families in a way we haven't seen before."

Chris Goulden from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said making people visit the Job Centre more often could mean the quality of support they receive will decline.

"Without expanding the resources of JCP, this implies they will receive less interaction with an adviser per visit," he said. "We want unemployed people to claim their entitlements and be given the support they need to get back into work as quickly as possible.”