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Minister for Social Justice and Minister for Climate Change call for action from the UK Government to tackle the Cost of Living Crisis

With growing concerns over the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ that families are facing across Wales, Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt and Minister for Climate Change Julie James outlined the full package of support the Welsh Government has developed to help families during this difficult time and reiterated their call for action from the UK Government to ease the burden on families across Wales. 

Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt stated:

“Energy bills are at an all-time high, food costs are mounting and inflation is climbing to its highest rate in a decade. Families across Wales are feeling the strain on their household budgets.  

On top of these extraordinary times, the situation is made worse by the callous decisions of the UK Government. The last UK Budget announcement was an opportunity to address these concerns, an opportunity to ease the pressure over the tough winter period, but unfortunately it was an opportunity that was missed.

Where Westminster has failed to support families, the Welsh Government has stepped in to back our communities through this challenging period. 

We introduced emergency measures to help offset the impact of the removal of the £20 uplift.

Our £51m Household Support Fund has seen:

£2 million allocated for homelessness prevention 
£38 million Winter Fuel Support Fund to provide a one-off £100 cash payment to help eligible households pay their winter fuel bills
£1.1 million for tackling food poverty, including £500,000 to support food banks meet increased demand and 657,000 to help establish a further twenty five Big Bocs Bwyd projects in schools in the Valleys Taskforce Area
Further announcements of funding under the Household Support Fund will be made in the coming weeks

We have also made available an additional £14.7 million for the Discretionary Assistance Fund for the current financial year so that we can continue the scheme flexibilities. This will allow an increased number and greater frequency of payments for people impacted by the withdrawal of the Universal Credit £20 uplift. 

We have re-instituted our winter fuel assistance from the Discretionary Assistance Fund for off-grid homes and boiler repair grants until 31st March 2022.” 

The Minister for Climate Change Julie James said:

“As we outlined in our letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, we have serious concerns about the increase in domestic energy prices and the impact this is having on households in Wales, particularly lower income households at risk of, or already living in, fuel poverty prior to the increase that came into effect in October.

As part of the UK Government’s Energy Retail Market Strategy we’re calling on the Secretary of State to give serious consideration to the introduction of a differentiated domestic energy tariff cap or social energy tariff targeted to better support lower income households. A lower cap set to safeguard lower income households against unaffordable price increases will ensure the most vulnerable in our society can maintain a satisfactory heating regime. 

We’re also urging the UK Government to provide additional support, through schemes such as the Warm Home Discount and other winter fuel payments this winter to lessen the burden on hard pressed families.”

Outlining the further action Welsh Government is taking to ease the pressure during the cost of living crisis, the Minister for Social Justice said:

“We know the initiatives we have developed are working and making a real difference to the lives of low income households. But we are aware that, as energy prices rise and inflation increases, we need to do more.

I will be holding a roundtable discussion with key stakeholders and ministerial colleagues on the 17 February to determine what more can we do with the policy levers available to us and develop a plan of action that will support households across Wales who are at risk of very real risk of financial harm. 

Finally, we will continue to make the strongest representation, alongside Scotland and Northern Ireland, to the UK Government which has proven itself callously indifferent to the challenges people are facing.  As National Energy Action has clearly stated, the UK Government has the powers and fiscal resources to address these issues.”

Finally, the Minister stated:

“The fact is, the UK Government’s Autumn Spending Review does not meet the scale of the challenge we are facing to tackle the looming cost-of-living crisis and invest in recovery for public services, businesses, communities, and families in Wales. 

Although most of the financial levers lie with Westminster, the Welsh Government is doing all within our power to specifically target those in most need of help and support during this cost of living crisis.”