Rachel Maclean: Safeguarding minister labelled as 'out of touch' as she tells public to 'work more or get better paid jobs' to afford rising prices

People struggling during the cost-of-living crisis should consider taking on more hours at work or moving to a better-paid job, a Government minister has said.

Rachel Maclean, safeguarding minister in the Home Office, admitted the idea would not work for all households, but said the solution for some people could be to look for additional work.

The comments come against a backdrop of soaring inflation, rising energy bills and high prices at the petrol pumps.

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The MP for Redditch in Worcestershire, who was elected in 2017 told Sky News: “I think what we need to focus on now is over the long-term.

Rachel Helen Maclean, MP for Redditch said people should consider taking on more hours at work or moving to a better-paid job

“We do have these short-term pressures on us that we’re all aware of.

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“But 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.

“These are long-term actions but that is what we are focused on as a Government.”

Ms Maclean said she was not “suggesting for one moment” that such an option would work for everyone.

But she said those with extra capacity could visit job centres to apply for either more hours or better rewarded employment.

She added: “It may be right for some people, they may be able to access additional hours, but, of course, it is not going to work for people who are already in three jobs.

“That’s why we need to have the other measures, such as all the help we are putting into schools, the help with the local authorities … and that’s where we are going to target help to where it is most needed.”

Labour shadow cabinet minister Ian Murray said the “ludicrous” advice appeared to hark back to Margaret Thatcher’s era of government.

The shadow Scotland secretary said: “Sounds like the Norman Tebbit ‘get on your bike’ instructions from the 1980s.

“It’s so out of touch with reality that I’m sure the minister knows how ludicrous it is, but they’ll defend Boris Johnson at all costs.”

Speaking later to LBC, Ms Maclean said “nothing is off the table” when it came to extending support to the public through the current crisis.

She was told that, even after £22 billion of support from central Government had been accounted for, food banks were facing increased demand and child poverty was predicted to rise by the winter.

“You will know that the Chancellor always keeps everything under review in terms of the fiscal response,” she replied.

“What we want to do is make sure we are protecting families and help them to weather the storm, and you have seen that response coming into place, you have seen it all the way through the Covid pandemic.

“Nothing is off the table and we will make sure we do everything we can to protect families.”

Downing Street said there was no “one-size-fits-all” approach that would help every household.

Support on offer included changes to the tax system but also targeted measures like the household support fund administered by councils, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

“So it will vary, the minister was clear, she said it was not going to work for people already working in three jobs, and that’s why we have the other measures we are putting in place,” the spokesman said.

The spokesman added: “People’s individual circumstances will vary, there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

The SNP’s Work and Pensions spokesperson, Kirsty Blackman, called the comments ‘callous’ and demanded more direct support for households including the introduction of a child payment to match the ambition of the Scottish Child Payment to tackle poverty and the turning of the energy support loan into a more generous grant.

She said: “With each day that passes another out of touch Tory Minister shames themself by making callous comments like this in an attempt to shift the blame over the cost of living crisis to the ordinary people left suffering from it.

“This blame for this crisis lies squarely at the feet of UK Tory government who have yet to offer any meaningful action or support for families who are facing energy bills rising by 50% and their wages stagnate - it’s clear all the Tories have to offer is insults.

“People wouldn’t need to take on another job or seek better pay had the Tories accepted calls years ago to implement the Real Living Wage - instead they’ve allowed millions of people to suffer on poverty wages as levels of in-work poverty continue to soar.

“As well as an introduction of the Real Living Wage we need to see a comprehensive package of measures to support households including a new child payment to tackle poverty and the turning of the paltry £250 energy support loan into a much more generous grant.

“If the Tories think this crisis will pass without significant direct government action they have their heads buried in the sand - all at the expense of the people they should be supporting.”

A children’s charity supporting families in crisis has described the levels of severe and persistent financial hardship it is seeing as being “among the worst” it can remember.

Action for Children insisted the Government can do “so much more” for people who are struggling the most, calling for a rethink to the Universal Credit cut.

The charity said children in low-income families should be targeted for help through a rise in the child element of Universal Credit, and urged ministers to guarantee benefits keep pace with the cost of living.