If you want to sort poverty, which party should get your vote?

calendar02 December 2019

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

If you want to sort poverty, which party should get your vote?

Whatever your politics, none of us wants to see people struggling and living in poverty – I think we can all agree on that. How to solve it? Well, that’s another issue! What are each of the parties’ promises for the poorest in our society?

What do the parties each say are their priorities?

  • The Conservative Party wants to see Brexit done, increase funding for the NHS and policing, tackle immigration, invest in apprenticeships and not raise taxes.
  • Labour’s headline promises are investment, the NHS, improving living standards, education and poverty. 
  • The Liberal Democrats want to stop Brexit, help schools, tackle in-work poverty and inequality, and improve mental health services.
  • All three say actions to tackle climate change are a must.
  • All three are looking to spend significantly after years of cuts. 

Looking at the manifestos alongside each other, the main thing that stands out is the level of detail. The Conservatives’ is the most succinct at 62 pages long, the Liberal Democrats take the middle ground with 98 pages and Labour’s comes in at a weighty 107 pages long. 

But let’s look a bit deeper...


This is a huge area of concern for CAP clients, with 91% of those being helped having an income lower than the national average. A third are living on less than £10,000 a year after housing costs. So what’s in place to help them?

  • The Conservatives promise to end the benefit freeze, something that has been in place since April 2016, slowly making the poorest worse off while the cost of living has increased. The party aims to raise the threshold that people start paying National Insurance to £9,500 from next year, with a view to increasing it to £12,500. The Labour Party also wants to introduce a Real Living Wage of at least £10/hr for everyone over 16. 
  • The Labour Party and Conservatives both say they won’t further raise income tax, National Insurance or VAT. 
  • The Liberal Democrats want an independent review to establish how to set a genuine Living Wage. The party also plans to scrap the Marriage Tax Allowance.


Among CAP’s debt clients, 64% live below the poverty line. Many are in destitution, unable to pay for the basics like energy, toiletries or housing. It is a big and complex issue for the UK, but with three million suffering from crisis debt, we know we need to face it. So what are the parties promising?

  • Labour wants to introduce a Right to Food and halve foodbank usage within a year, removing hunger in three years. They promise to replace the Social Mobility Commission with a Social Justice Commission based in the Treasury. They say they will establish a National Strategy for Childhood focusing on a range of areas, including poverty.
  • The Liberal Democrats promise to use the £50 billion saved by remaining in Europe to pay for services to tackle inequality, including in-work poverty. They will establish a legal Right to Food.
  • The Conservatives say they want to continue their efforts to reduce child poverty.


  • The Liberal Democrats promise to reform Universal Credit (UC), including reducing the wait for the first payment from five weeks to five days, and replacing sanctions with incentives. The party say they will scrap the two-child limit, bedroom tax and the benefit cap, as will Labour.
  • Labour promises to scrap UC and design an alternative system. They say they’ll implement a package of reforms which includes paying the housing element of UC directly to the landlord and recruiting an extra 5,000 advisors to enable the digital-only element of UC to be reworked.
  • The Conservatives say they will continue to roll out UC but make sure it works for the most vulnerable. 

Mental health

Depression, anxiety, panic attacks and bipolar disorder – as well as other conditions – are commonplace among the people CAP is helping.

  • Thankfully, all three of the major parties want to improve services in this area. 


One in three CAP clients live with a disability, so this is another key area of the manifestos for vulnerable people.

  • The Conservatives promise to reduce the number of reassessments a disabled person must go through when a significant change in their condition is unlikely. They say they will publish a National Strategy for Disabled People before the end of 2020, looking at improving the benefit system, access to housing, education, transport and jobs. 
  • Both Labour and Conservatives promise to offer free parking in hospital car parks.
  • Labour wants to have mandatory disability pay gap reporting, better training for employers and updates to the Equality Act. They want to introduce disability paid leave separate to sick leave. They will scrap Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Work Capability Assessments (WCA).
  • Liberal Democrats want to reinstate the Independent Living Fund.

Family support

  • The Liberal Democrats plan to give free childcare for working parents from when their baby is nine months old. £1 billion would be invested in Children’s Centres. Free school meals would be extended to all children in primary school AND all secondary school children if their family is in receipt of UC.
  • Conservatives would improve the Troubled Families programme and champion family hubs. £1 billion would be used to create more high quality childcare and free school meals would continue.
  • Labour would replace the Troubled Families programme with a Stronger Families programme, refocused on long-term support. Cuts to Sure Start would be reversed. Labour also promises that within five years all two to four year olds will be entitled to 30 hours free childcare. 


Nearly a fifth of people in debt first come to CAP in arrears with their energy bills. Fuel poverty is an ongoing problem and those on the lowest incomes are least able to access the best deals. 

  • The Conservatives say they will keep the existing energy cap and introduce new measures to lower bills. They promise to invest £9.2 billion to improve the efficiency of homes, schools and hospitals to lower energy bills.
  • Labour also wants to increase the energy efficiency of homes which they say will help reduce bills by £417 per year by 2030.
  • Labour plans to nationalise the publicly owned energy networks under a new UK National Energy Agency, with 14 regional Energy Agencies who will have responsibility for reducing fuel poverty. 
  • The Liberal Democrats promise to end fuel poverty by 2025 through an array of measures, including a street-by-street scheme of efficiency improvements.


Nearly four in ten clients have water arrears when they first come to us for debt help and there is a huge disparity in the cost from one area to the next.

  • The Conservatives want to extend the water rebate for those in the South West.
  • Labour promises to bring water into democratic public ownership.
  • The Liberal Democrats don’t mention water specifically in their manifesto.


Housing plays a huge part in the feelings of security or insecurity for our clients, with the vast majority renting their homes.

  • The Liberal Democrats want to build 100,000 homes for social rent each year, with a £130 billion capital infrastructure budget. 
  • They plan to introduce a new rent-to-own model for social housing and a new help-to-rent scheme to help under 30s into rental homes. There will be mandatory landlord licencing.
  • Labour would create a new Department for Housing and there are plans for a new social house building programme to build more than 150,000 social homes a year. 
  • ‘Affordable rents’ will be redefined for each area. The party would introduce new nationwide licencing to ensure minimum property standards. Local councils would have new powers to bring empty homes back into use after a year. Labour would also end Right to Buy but build more low cost homes reserved for first-time buyers. 
  • Both Labour and Conservatives would seek to give tenants a better deal and abolish ‘no fault’ evictions, as well as banning the sale of new leasehold homes.
  • The Conservatives’ manifesto says they will encourage long-term fixed rate mortgages with low deposits, enable councils to provide discounts to local people otherwise unable to buy in the area, and retain commitment to Right to Buy for all council tenants. The Conservatives also want to extend the help-to-buy scheme from 2021 to 2023. They say they will set out a Social Housing White Paper outlining measures to empower tenants, as well as continuing to supply social homes and improving quality.


  • The Liberal Democrats plan to deliver the Homelessness Reduction Act and end the criminalisation of rough sleeping. 
  • Labour promises to end rough sleeping in five years with a special task force. They also say they will make 8,000 homes available to people with a rough sleeping history, improve hostels and tackle the causes of homelessness. Labour would also add an extra £1 billion a year for council homelessness services.
  • Conservatives want to end homelessness by expanding successful pilots like the Rough Sleeping Initiative and Housing First. 


  • Labour promises to extend support for people suffering with drug, alcohol or gambling abuse. They also want to curb gambling advertising in sports and review evidence on minimum alcohol pricing.
  • Both Conservatives and Labour say they will introduce gambling legislation fit for the digital age. 
  • Conservatives want to take a new approach to drug addiction treatments to break the cycle of crime.
  • Liberal Democrats want to ban the use of credit cards for gambling, restrict advertising and establish a Gambling Ombudsman. The Liberal Democrats plan to introduce minimum alcohol pricing and want to move responsibility for drugs to the Department of Health. They would introduce a legal and regulated market for cannabis. There would be a new levy on tobacco firms to contribute to health care and the cost of helping people quit.

What’s everyone saying?

The Resolution Foundation, a think tank focusing on the lives of people on lower incomes, said child poverty would further increase under the Conservative’s manifesto, while poverty would show no significant decrease were Labour or the Liberal Democrats in power either.

Under the Conservatives, it predicted child poverty would rise from 29.6% to a 60-year high of 34% by 2023-4. Under Labour this was predicted to rise to 30.2% and under the Liberal Democrats it would be 29.7%

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is scathing about the spending sprees planned by especially the Conservatives and Labour.

IFS Director Paul Johnson said a Labour manifesto pledge to abolish poverty for people in work over the next five years was, ‘not achievable’, and a plan to scrap the Universal Credit benefits payment scheme would be ‘expensive, disruptive and unnecessary’. He also criticised the Conservatives for failing to ‘come up with any kind of plan or any kind of money for social care’. A promise that nobody would have to sell their house to pay for care ‘would appear to be little more than an uncosted aspiration’, he added.

The Liberal Democrats' manifesto, he said, would involve lower levels of borrowing than under Labour or the Conservatives, but would usually be seen as ‘radical’. However, he added that, given the uncertainty around Brexit, it was difficult to determine what the exact effects of the three parties' offers would be.

What’s CAP saying?

It’s a mixed bag and we realise that, in reality, you will probably vote on more topics than just how it affects the poorest. However, we would ask you to consider them as you go into the polling booths on 12 December. Looking through our particular lens, we don’t feel that any one party has got it completely right and, despite various predictions, no one really knows the full implications of Brexit on the poorest. Much prayer is needed for the government (whichever it is) as it faces the changes and challenges ahead.

If you want a question to ask your local prospective parliamentary candidate, we’d recommend this:

How will you ensure the UK's support structures will anchor people when they face financial difficulties?

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