CHANCELLOR Jeremy Hunt must offer more help to struggling households and take action to improve a benefits system “born of austerity” which is “doing significant harm”, campaigners have warned.

The Tory minister will present his Autumn Statement in the House of Commons on Wednesday, outlining the UK Government’s tax and spending plans for the year ahead.

Ahead of the key financial event, it has been suggested he is weighing up large cuts to the taxes people pay after inheriting wealth, with Tories piling pressure on for a pre-election giveaway.

Reports have also stated he may attempt to raise more revenue by using October’s inflation figure of 4.6% to put up benefits rather than continuing to use the figure for September as usual – which would mean a rise of 6.7%.

READ MORE: DWP: UK Government to slash benefits for those out of work

Campaigners have warned the recent decrease in inflation has not taken the pressure off households struggling with soaring mortgage, rent and food bills.

Meanwhile, the SNP have challenged the Chancellor to introduce a £400 energy bill rebate to provide “immediate help” to protect families.

Chris Birt, associate director for Scotland with charity Joseph Rowntree Foundation, pointed to research it carried out as part of a campaign for an “Essentials Guarantee” calling for benefits to be set to an acceptable level to cover the basics for living.

“We essentially did a lot of analysis where we sat down with members of the public and said: 'What are the things you absolutely need to get by?' To be honest, we were pretty conservative on it, it was the bare minimum.

“So it was things like keeping your heating on, keeping food on the table, clothes, basic toiletries, a mobile phone, all that kind of stuff.

“And we can show that for a single person the standard allowance is £35 short a week on even just essentials and for a couple, it is £66. And for people under 25, it is even worse.

“So it just highlights that benefit levels are set with absolutely no regard as to how much things cost.”

He added: “Ultimately while we might be not exactly hopeful that the current UK Government will do anything to increase that adequacy, but it is really needed - there are four million people in destitution and there is a string of pretty other horrible statistics and stories about how people are struggling.

"So fundamentally, we have a social security system born of austerity which is doing people significant harm.”

Birt said research also published by the charity had shown around 17% of low-income people – adding up to around two million - had switched their fridge or their freezer off over the last six months.

READ  MORE: 'Beyond crass' for Tories to take credit for inflation fall

He added: “Frankly a lot of politicians are breezing about like a cost of living crisis is over.

“Obviously inflation was shown to have fallen significantly this week - but people forget this it doesn’t not mean prices fall.”

Birt called for the Chancellor to uprate benefits by inflation “at a minimum”, as well as increase local housing allowances, which have been frozen since 2020 and set the maximum amount of benefit support low-income private renters can get.

His call was echoed by Peter Kelly, director of The Poverty Alliance, who said: “We live in a wealthy country, so it’s entirely unjust that so many of our citizens are being pulled into poverty and destitution. The Autumn Statement is a chance for our Government to change that.

“At the very least, the Chancellor can raise social security benefits in line with inflation. He should do that in the usual way, by using the September inflation figure of 6.7% as has been done for many years.

“There have been reports that he is considering using the October figure of 4.6% instead. That would take around £2 billion from the incomes of households who are already struggling to keep their heads above water. It would mean increased hardship and hunger – including for children.”

He added: “In the longer term, we need governments that will turn compassion into action by making sure that social security at least covers the essentials that people need, and by scrapping unjust and ineffective benefit caps and sanctions.”

SNP MP Drew Hendry (below) called on the Chancellor to "deliver broad-based measures that give the majority of families immediate help".

The National:

It comes as the energy price cap is predicted to rise from £1834 a year for a typical household to £1931.25 from January, according to latest forecasts from Cornwall Insight.

This would represent an increase of more than 5% on the current cap and an increase of 85% on the same period in 2021.

READ MORE: Experts undermine Tory boasts as inflation drops below five per cent

Hendry said: "The Tory government must not leave families in the cold this winter. Time is running out to help households with the soaring cost of living before the winter freeze hits homes.

"With UK energy bills, mortgages, rents and food prices spiralling, the Chancellor must deliver broad-based measures that give the majority of families immediate help.

"That means introducing a £400 energy bill rebate, and scrapping sky-high standing charges, to protect households from increasingly unaffordable bills - as part of a major package of support to boost household incomes.”

He added: "Millions of people have seen their incomes hammered as a result of Tory cuts, Brexit and UK Government incompetence.

"The SNP government is helping families with the council tax freeze and Scottish Child Payment.

“The UK Government must now follow Scotland's lead - and transfer powers over energy, employment and the economy so Scotland can act where it fails.

"By failing to act, Westminster is showing why Scotland needs the full powers of independence so we can grow our economy and boost incomes.”