Exclusive - Three major charities call on Rishi Sunak to raise benefits: 'People are existing, not living'

Prime minister Rishi Sunak in May pledged to increase benefits in line with inflation when he was chancellor. (Getty Images)

Three of the UK's leading charities have come together and called on Rishi Sunak to increase benefits in line with inflation in this week's budget, warning "people are existing, not living" amid the worsening cost-of-living crisis.

Their intervention comes after inflation hit 10.1% in the 12 months to September and the average yearly energy bill hit £2,500 in October - almost double what it was last year.

Amid the bleak economic backdrop, chancellor Jeremy Hunt intends to raise £33bn through spending cuts and £22bn through tax rises in Thursday's autumn statement, according to The Telegraph.

Read more: Can food banks cope during the cost of living crisis?

The government has hinted pensions will be protected and will still get a 10.1% inflationary increase – with Sunak claiming pensioners are "always at the forefront" of his mind.

However, he has not provided similar assurances on benefits despite calls from his own MPs to uprate payments in line with inflation.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt speaks at the House of Commons, in London, Britain, October 17, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has warned an array of spending cuts and tax hikes will be announced on Thursday. (Reuters)

Instead, the government are reportedly considering increasing benefits in line with earnings – which is around 5.5%.

Age UK, Save the Children and the Child Poverty Action Group have told Yahoo News UK the government must honour the promise Sunak made in May to uprate benefits with inflation – warning "both young and old" need help.

Elaine Yates, 73, from Northamptonshire, said she has seen the impact the cost-of-living crisis has had on her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

"My struggles are nothing compared to bringing a young person up and feeding them," said Yates, who is also a campaigner for Age UK.

Age UK campaigner Elaine Yates, 73, said people 'aren’t living, they are just existing'. (Age UK)
The average household's annual energy bill will currently be £2,500, up from £1,277 last winter (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
The average household's annual energy bill will currently be £2,500, up from £1,277 last winter (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

"[My granddaughter] has bought [her children] extra blankets for the beds because of the heating.

"They shouldn’t have to be cutting down on heating for young children. She puts extra socks on them.

"How on earth is any family going to cope with what’s coming?"

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), at least 4.3 million children and 2.1 million older people live in poverty in the UK.

Yates said she hopes the government realises "there's something is wrong here".

"The government has got to look at families being able to live. Even now, they aren’t living, they are just existing," she said.

"It’s the same with pensioners, I don’t have the heating on. I have a lung disease, and I think do I put the heating on, can I cope with it?"

Becca Lyon, head of UK child poverty at Save the Children, said grandparents "can see exactly" how much their families are struggling with the rising cost of living.

The cost of living is soaring in the UK (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
The cost of living is soaring in the UK (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

“When grandparents are such a key part of family life, if they’re also struggling with costs or get ill themselves from not putting the heating on, then it can have a huge knock on effect for an entire family," said Lyon.

"The government must act to help both young and old.”

Read more: Martin Lewis makes series of 'random' donations to charities

Sara Ogilvie, director of policy, rights and advocacy at Child Poverty Action Group, said it would be "unthinkable" not to increase all benefits in line with inflation.

“Poverty is devastating whether you’re a grandparent, parent or grandchild, and the government must at the very least increase all benefits in line with inflation."

It comes after Ryan Shorthouse, chief executive of the Conservative think-tank Bright Blue, told the Independent it would be "intellectually indefensible" to protect state pensions but not universal credit claimants.

The Treasury has been contacted for comment.

Watch: Jeremy Hunt warns 'everyone' will pay more tax under his fiscal plans