Benefits recipients facing a “dark” Christmas due to tightened finances have said they fear rises unveiled in Jeremy Hunt’s autumn budget will come “too late”.
The Chancellor has pledged a cost-of-living payment of £900 to households on means-tested benefits and £150 for individuals on disability benefit and also plans to raise disability and working-age benefits by 10.1%, in line with September inflation, in April next year.
The announcement of help has been welcomed but many feel the April rise needs to be brought forward, with members of the public directly impacted telling the PA news agency that the support on offer comes “too late”.
Jason Alcock, 51, a disabled widower who was forced to sell his dead wife’s possessions to cover his living costs in recent years, said he “should be eligible” for both payments and the working-age benefit increase, but is unsure of when to expect them and scrutinised the delay to the 10.1% benefits rise.
“We need it now,” said Mr Alcock, from Stoke-on-Trent.
“We’re going to have a really cold winter and people are going to die because they’re not going to turn on their heating.
“I’m living in one room upstairs because the heat rises… that’s the only room I’m heating.”
Mr Alcock has autism, ADHD and bipolar disorder, and uses technology, including virtual reality, to communicate from his home.
With costs increasing, it is becoming more challenging for him to continue running the electronics he uses in his home, which he pays for with his income from a Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and a severe disability premium.
His wife Paola died in 2018 after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, and he was forced to sell many of her belongings “to survive”.
While Mr Alcock welcomed any form of support from the Government, he added that the cost-of-living crisis is affecting more than just vulnerable people.
“The problem is this is affecting not just people on benefits now, it’s affecting everyone unless you’ve got a lot of money,” Mr Alcock said.
“Christmas is going to be a really dark time this year.
“I’m wearing extra clothing, which is another thing that I haven’t had to do in the past – it’s very unusual, this complete change of the way you live.”
Nicholas Wilson from Hastings, East Sussex, is a self-proclaimed “mortgage prisoner” who faces losing his property because increasing mortgage costs have outgrown his benefits allowance.
Mr Wilson, 65, has recently been diagnosed with prostate cancer and expects further expenses due to travelling for radiotherapy treatment.
He said Mr Hunt’s working-age benefit increase is “coming too late” and warned that “everybody is going to suffer”.
“It’s a good thing, but 10.1% of very little is still very little,” Mr Wilson told PA.
“It’s coming too late… we’ve got winter to get through with fuel bills.
“Something needs to be done now, effective straight away… it’s a typical Tory budget – hammers the poor and protects the rich.”
Mr Wilson relies on donations from Twitter followers – of which he has more than 55,000 – to cover monthly payments.
He added that the statement leaves him in the same position as he has been for months until he can start receiving a pension next year.
“In my case, if I can’t pay my mortgage, I’ll be repossessed, potentially in the middle of having radiotherapy treatment,” he said.
“I’ve got to avoid that at all costs.
“My case is extreme, but I think everybody is everybody is going to suffer.”
Gary, who has experience of financial insecurity and has received support by the charity Turn2us, said people need support “now”.
He said: “The uprating of benefits feels like a sticking plaster on a leak that’s been left too long.
“People on the lowest incomes and relying on benefits are still going to struggle this winter before we receive extra support.”
Matt, a recently qualified teacher in full-time work who receives Universal Credit, said he has already cut back on food shops and electricity.
The father-of-two said: “Luxuries like a birthday party for our 4-year-old and Christmas have been completely stripped back.
“We can’t cut any more from our budget.
“The government’s announcement today felt bland and like a one-size-fits-all package when so many people across the country are struggling and need help way before April.”