“Government does need to look at how it can intervene in the energy market to help customers who are on a low income but paying high bills, there is also the need to look at problems in other markets, such as mobile and broadband. People are losing up to £23billion a year, that’s around £446 each – equivalent to the average weekly wage, from consumer issues and we help hundreds of thousands of people a year who find businesses are letting them down.
“Rights and enforcement are two sides of the same coin and it’s good to see the government investing in making sure people get paid the wage they’ve earned. There is an opportunity to go further by increasing enforcement across other employment rights – like sick pay and maternity leave – and make it easier for workers to challenge exploitative employers by lowering Employment Tribunal fees.
“Reducing the Universal Credit taper rate shows an encouraging change of tack from the government – putting money into welfare instead of taking more out. Helping people on Universal Credit get the most from their earnings is the right intention but it won’t fully offset the cuts to the work allowance.
“Going forward we hope to see the government build on today’s announcements and take further action to help just managing families by improving the security of people’s income and tackling failing consumer markets.”
Meanwhile Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said “Today’s Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity to put in place the measures that are needed to help the ‘just about managing’ to manage with some hope of stability. Welfare changes in the pipeline leave many people dangerously close to not managing at all. Planned increases to the personal allowance and the National Living Wage may provide some respite, but the lack of action on the four year freeze on working age benefits and the two-child limit for child tax credits means there is still financial pain ahead for many families.
“As the Government acknowledges the need to examine the retail energy market to ensure that it is working for consumers, it must show the same willingness to examine other markets where consumer detriment is common, including overdrafts and credit cards.
“There are 2.6m people struggling with severe problem debt in the UK, and in order to help the ‘just about managing’ we need measures to improve to improve financial resilience in the form of low-income savings policies building on the “Help to Save” plan, better protections for people in debt in the form of a statutory ‘breathing space’ scheme, and more affordable and sustainable credit options for low-income households.”