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Minister says those struggling could ‘take on more hours’ at work or get a ‘better paid job’

Minister says those struggling could ‘take on more hours’ at work or get a ‘better paid job’
16.05.2022
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A government minister has suggested that people struggling with the cost of living could take on more hours or move to a better-paid job.

Rachel Maclean, the safeguarding minister, told Sky News that those were some of the ways households could “protect themselves” as prices soar.

Downing Street defended her after opposition parties sharply criticised the comments.

Ms Maclean said that every minister was looking at the issue as consumers face “short term pressures” such as high energy and food bills – and added that there was “more help coming”.

But she added: “Over the long term we need to have a plan to grow the economy and make sure that people are able to protect themselves better – whether that is by taking on more hours or moving to a better paid job and these are long term actions but that’s what we’re focused on as a government.”

Pressed over evidence that some people were working three jobs but still having to visit food banks, she added: “We have often heard in the past when people are facing problems with their budgets that one of the obstacles – and it may not be for everybody – is about being able to take on more hours or even move to a better-paid job.

“Of course, it’s an individual situation, depending on that particular family’s situation but that’s why the job centres exist, that’s why the work coaches exist, that’s why we’ve put the support into those job centres – to work with individuals on their own individual situation.

“So it may be right for some people – they may be able to access additional hours.

“But of course it’s not going to work for people who are already working in three jobs.”

Help being given to schools and through local authorities would target assistance “where it’s most needed”, she said.

Ms Maclean added: “We’ve already taken action to help people with energy bills and there’s more help coming.”

Labour’s Peter Kyle, shadow Northern Ireland secretary, criticised Ms Maclean’s cost of living comments, describing how he recently met people at a food bank who were in work but having an “extremely difficult” time including a single mother with two jobs.

He told Sky News: “The idea that she could work longer and therefore not spend more time with her family – I think it’s just disconnected from the realities of people’s lives.”

Mr Kyle also referred to recent comments by environment secretary George Eustice, who suggested people struggling with higher shop prices should buy value brands.

The Labour MP said: “What we need ministers to be doing is solving the economic problems that families have because of the economic problems our country faces.

“Their jobs as politicians aren’t just to tell people to work harder, work longer and go for a promotion…”

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