MPs have demanded Boris Johnson reverses the cruel Tory benefit freeze by handing families bumper rises of 4% per year.
A powerful cross-party group today calls for four years of above-inflation rises to make up for seven years of freezes and caps.
The Work and Pensions Committee says Tory austerity has “steadily eroded” benefit rates by nearly £1bn more than planned and “very disadvantaged people are losing out”.
The MPs say frozen benefits should rise by CPI inflation plus 2% for four years from April 2020 – bringing them to what they’d have been if the freeze never happened.
On current rates, that would hand families a 3.9% rise next year.
“The welfare safety net is not fit for purpose for people living on the breadline,” the MPs write.
“When the freeze ends in 2020/21, a substantial chunk will have been taken out of the incomes of some of the country’s most vulnerable households.
“Simply lifting the freeze is not enough.”
The move would help millions of families on working-age benefits, including Universal Credit, who have been driven into debt and turned to food banks under Tory austerity.
But the new Prime Minister has refused to confirm he’ll even end the freeze next April – let alone raise rates above inflation.
That is despite ministers previously saying the freeze would end in April, and Tory welfare chief Amber Rudd urging Mr Johnson to honour the pledge.
The Work and Pensions Secretary said two weeks ago: “It’s time to end the benefits freeze. Because otherwise with inflation up where it is, it’s too difficult for people on benefits that are effectively taking too much of a cut.”
Yet despite vowing to slash income tax for £80,000 earners, Mr Johnson said during the Tory leadership campaign: “I have probably made enough spending commitments.”
Most working-age benefits were limited to 1% rises for three years from 2013 then frozen for four years from 2016.
Today’s report by MPs gives a scathing verdict on various reforms under the Tories, which they say are “pushing some people not only into poverty, but into hunger and destitution”.
The MPs write: “It is difficult to avoid concluding that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) simply does not understand the impact of its reforms on some of the most vulnerable people it supports.”
Their report calls for the DWP to “consider whether there is a case” for setting up an independent regulator of the benefits system.
The MPs also urge a full fresh impact assessment of Universal Credit after ministers pumped in £1.7bn – less than the £3.2bn originally taken out of the system in 2015.
And they call for an independent survey of the extra costs of being disabled, to ensure disability benefit rates are based on evidence.
A Government spokeswoman said: “We’re helping people to improve their lives through work and ensuring those on a low income keep more of what they earn by increasing the National Living Wage and cutting taxes for 32 million people.
“There are more people in work than ever before and wages continue to outstrip inflation, but we recognise that some families need more support.
“That’s why we’re investing £9 million in free summer holiday clubs and continuing to spend £95 billion a year on working age welfare to support families.”