Theresa May Accused Of Failing 'Just About Managing' Families In First Year As PM

Stats show millions no better off than they were 15 years ago.
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Theresa May has been accused of failing working families after figures revealed millions are no better off than they were 15 years ago.

Thursday marks a year since the prime minister took office and pledged to make households who were ‘just about managing’ - or ‘JAMs’ - her key focus.

But new data released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows families relying solely on a father’s income are no better off financially than they were in 2002.

Over the last 20 years, growth in the earnings of working fathers has stalled at just 0.3% a year on average, while mothers’ earnings have grown by more than 2% a year - meaning it has become increasingly difficult for households where only the father is working to keep up with those where both parents are employed.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron accused May of ‘betraying’ millions of families.

“In 2017, people should not be sitting there at the end of month worrying if they can buy essentials or public sector workers having to go to foodbanks,” he said.

“The prime minister said she would help them and yet she has done nothing. Never has someone in recent times talked so big and delivered so little.

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“People are struggling and the government just don’t seem to care. It is time millions of people get the pay rise they deserve.

In her first speech on the steps of 10 Downing Street last year, May said she wanted to address working families directly.

“I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle,” she said.

“The government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours.

“We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you. When we pass new laws, we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”

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But the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which commissioned the IFS research, says the only reason incomes of families with just fathers in work are any higher at all now than in the mid 1990s is because benefit and tax credit payments have doubled since then.

The charity says that because 85% of one-earner families do not have a working mother, they have not benefited from the large increase in women’s earnings since the mid 1990s.

As a result, while the incomes of two-earner families are 10% higher than in 2002–03, the incomes of one-earner families have not changed over that period.

Andrew Hood, senior research economist at IFS and co-author of the new report, which is due to be released in full later this week, said: “Boosting the incomes of large numbers of families dependent on fathers’ earnings may well be challenging.

“The vast majority of the fathers are already working full time, most of the mothers are not actively seeking paid work, and increases in in-work benefits targeted at the group would be likely to further weaken the financial incentive for those families to become dual earners.

“But increasingly it is a challenge that governments wanting to improve the living standards of low-income children should be considering.”