Tories will press ahead with cruel benefits freeze despite soaring inflation

New Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke refused to bow to pressure to ease the misery of some of the most poverty-hit households

The Tories will press ahead with their cruel benefits freeze which is crippling hard-up families despite soaring inflation, the Work and Pensions Secretary confirmed today.

David Gauke refused to bow to pressure to ease the misery of some of the most poverty-hit households battling rising prices and falling real incomes.

He also renewed fears for a fresh attack on OAPs, suggesting the pensions triple lock could be axed within three years.

Inflation has climbed to 2.9% and is predicted to rise further before the end of the year.

But the freeze on working-age benefits, which came into force last year, sees most payments capped at their current rate until 2019.

Speaking at a Westminster lunch, Mr Gauke dashed hopes of an end to austerity, saying: “I would expect the benefit freeze to continue.”

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Nurses turning to food banks and seeking debt advice due to NHS cuts

Nurses are increasingly turning to food banks and pay day lenders after years of public sector pay freezes, a union has warned.

Undervalued nurses are forced to seek advice about debts, bankruptcy and homelessness, according to new figures from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

More than 1,200 nurses called the union’s member support helpline between January and July, needing advice on welfare, ill-health, disability and other issues.

This included 231 asking for help with debts and bankruptcy.

The figures come as Janet Davies, the union’s new general secretary and chief executive, told the Guardian of anecdotal evidence that nurses are increasingly turning to food banks and payday lenders.

She said years of public sector pay restraint was leaving nurses feeling undervalued and could push some to leave the profession.

The union’s counseling service has also seen a rise in the number of nurses needing help with stress.

Problems filling rotas is also leading to an even greater reliance on expensive agency staff.

Ms Davies said: “These huge agency bills, nurses going to food banks – this is not a great place to be.”

She said more nurses were choosing agency or bank nursing because they could earn more money.

And she said a further pressure on pay was the increasing prevalence of “downbanding”, where a senior nursing post is re-evaluated and downgraded.

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Families struggling as child costs rise, says CPAG

Families are struggling as the cost of bringing up a child has risen to £148,000, according to research for the Child Poverty Action Group charity (CPAG).

The report, co-funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation charity, says costs have risen by 4% over the last year.

At the same time, it says the value of benefit payments fell in real terms.

But the government said it was helping families by cutting income tax for 25 million people.

‘Stark picture’

The CPAG says parents face a “growing struggle” to provide a decent standard of living for their families.

“This research paints a stark picture of families being squeezed by rising prices and stagnant wages, yet receiving ever-diminishing support from the government over the course of the last year,” said Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the CPAG.

The report points out that benefits payments rose by only 1% in April this year, as a result of the government’s welfare changes.

It adds that the minimum wage rose by 1.8%, average earnings rose by 1.5%, and child benefit was frozen.

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Child care is so much that I try and avoid it almost”

Kim Levine Single mother

But the cost of living rose sharply for many families, especially for those who need child care.

The cost of that rose by 5.9% in the last year, said the CPAG. It added that many low-income families had seen cuts in housing support, and many non-working families had had to make their first contributions to council tax.

Kim Levine, a single mother with two children from south London, told the BBC she found the cost of child care particularly high.

“Child care is so much that I try and avoid it almost. My wages definitely haven’t gone up in the last few years, and yet my weekly food shop has,” she said.

Read more on the BBC website,