'Lives will be lost if benefits and wages don't rise with inflation'

The UK Government has been urged to ensure that benefits keep pace with the inflation rate.

‘Lives will be lost if benefits and wages don’t rise with inflation’, warns UN’s poverty expert iStock

Lives will be lost unless governments increase benefits and wages in line with inflation, the UN’s poverty expert has warned.

Oliver De Schutter, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, issued the warning amid a cost of living crisis that has seen household bills soaring.

The UK Government has so far refused to confirm whether benefits will rise with inflation.

Westminster’s Work and Pensions Committee has called on the Government to honour the commitment made by former chancellor Rishi Sunak to update benefits in April 2023 in line with the September 2022 CPI rate.

Jeremy Hunt, appointed as chancellor on Friday following the sacking of Kwasi Kwarteng, will set out a fiscal plan on October 31.

However, he has warned that the Government will have to take “some very difficult decisions” in order to get debt down.

UN official De Schutter will underline the need for action to ensure households are protected at a Council of Europe event in Strasbourg, France, on Monday.

“It is not hyperbole to say that unless governments increase benefits and wages in line with inflation, lives will be lost,” he will say.

“Whether in Europe, where inflation has hit a record high of 10% or sub-Saharan Africa where food prices have surged by nearly 24%, household budgets across the world are being stretched beyond breaking point.

“Meaning even more people in poverty will starve or freeze this winter unless immediate action is taken to increase their income.”

De Schutter pointed to the environmental benefits of insulating homes, as well as brining down energy bills.

“Insulating people’s homes to keep them warm and safe is not rocket science and failure to act in this area is simply down to a lack of political will,” he will say.

“Not only will doing so reduce the energy bills of low-income households, it will also considerably reduce carbon emissions.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) pointed to the support being provided by the Government.

“The secretary of state commences her statutory annual review of benefits and state pensions from late October using the most recent prices and earnings indices available,” they said.

“We are committed to looking after the most vulnerable which is why we’ve delivered at least £1,200 of support to families this winter while also saving households an average of £1,000 a year through our Energy Price Guarantee.

“This support is on top of the annual working-age benefits bill which is over £87bn.”

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