We all know families in Britain today are struggling to make ends meet as they face a huge squeeze on their finances due to job insecurity, salary reductions, welfare reforms and the rising cost of every day necessities like food, petrol and childcare. You've heard it before, but that doesn't make it less true. At present families with children are carrying too large a proportion of the burden of austerity. This must change.
According to new research published today by Asda (in the 'Mumdex'), mums reported that the rising cost of living is now three times as pressing an issue as youth unemployment and four times as pressing as violent crime. The Mumdex reveals shocking figures that 6 in 10 mums say they can no longer afford to turn the heating on for as long as they need. This is simply an unsustainable status quo and it is now clear that the government must intervene to rescue families from the brink. This week's Budget is a key opportunity for the Chancellor to demonstrate that supporting families with children is a priority, and to lay the groundwork that will enable families to take charge of their own budgets again.
To this end, a campaign backed by leading children and families charities has been launched to call on the Government to invest in the country's greatest asset. Headed by national charity 4Children, with a coalition of charities and organisations behind it, Fair4Families argues that families are a major untapped resource and that the Chancellor needs to put them at the top of his agenda in economic decisions this year. An indication of his commitment to families in this month's Budget will be a positive first step, but also crucial will be the later Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), now set for the end of June. With Departmental Ministers openly making the case for protecting their budgets from further cuts, it is critical that the needs of families with children don't get drowned out.
Since taking office, the Government has made pensioners a special case; taking steps to protect pensioners by introducing a 'triple lock' to ensure that the state pensions will rise by inflation, average earnings or 2.5 per cent - whichever is higher - and by protecting key universal benefits. That is admirable, but in contrast, families with children are struggling on multiple fronts, with real terms cuts in tax credits, child benefit, and maternity and paternity pay all adding up.
To ensure that families are made a priority in the Budget and the CSR, Fair4Families is calling on the Government to introduce a 'triple lock' for families. This includes an ambitious vision for support for families, including childcare - so that more parents can contribute to economic growth and a greater investment in housing to give more people the chance to realise their dream of a home fit for a family - and a real shift in spending, from ineffective late intervention to early intervention, as well as a credible strategy to begin to eradicate child poverty. Secondly it calls for protecting crucial services for families with children from further spending reductions for the spending review period, in the face of calls for a public spending freeze from Dr. Liam Fox. Finally the campaign asks that there are no further spending reductions sought through real terms cuts to benefits paid to families with children.
Campaign supporters recognise that there are many competing demands on Government and that tough decisions must be made. However, happy, stable, well supported families are a real asset for our country and with the right support can make a major contribution to our economic and social recovery.