Charity: Change benefits in Budget
A leading charity has called on the Government to make changes in next week's Budget to universal benefits such as free TV licences, winter fuel payments and child benefit, to target money at the poor.
Barnardo's made the plea after revealing that demand for its emergency grants, given to children in "desperate need", had increased by a fifth in recent years.
Money has been given for beds, cookers and heating oil as well as to help young people at risk of being made homeless.
Barnardo's chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: "Families need financial help, now. There is room for more redistribution of funds - free TV licences, winter fuel allowance and child benefit should be better targeted.
"By ending these universal benefits and compensating families and pensioners on low incomes so they don't lose out, £3.9 billion would be left over to help combat the pending catastrophe for the poorest families, pensioners and children."
The charity said times will get tougher next month for struggling families due to Government reforms which will affect childcare costs and working tax credits.
Mrs Carrie added: "If this mounting pressure on poor families is ignored we are storing up even greater trouble for the future.
"With almost 60% of children living in poverty having a parent with a job, it is imperative that they are not left worse off through work, yet the Government has created disincentives to work which need to be re-assessed - and fast."