Government measures to help households cope with soaring energy prices are a “life raft” that will provide struggling families with “much-needed breathing space”, charities have said.

Groups welcomed the £15 billion package, which includes £400 in universal support from October and targeted measures for low-income households on benefits, disabled people and pensioners.

But they warned those with the lowest incomes need a longer-term solution so they do not have to rely on “one-off acts of generosity” from Chancellor Rishi Sunak to stay afloat.

Dame Clare Moriarty, chief executive of Citizens Advice, said the “hugely welcome” measures will be a “life raft” for millions of people who have been struggling.

Dan Paskins, director of UK impact at Save the Children, said the “generous package” will provide breathing space and “some relief” to many families.

He said: “This decision shows that the Government understands that the most effective way of supporting those struggling most with the cost of living is through social security.

“The approach they’ve taken today is the right one, and hopefully the start of reversing years of cuts to social security, and reducing the number of children living in poverty.”

Richard Lane, of debt charity StepChange, said it is important the choice to support the widest number of households does not dilute the help for those in greatest need.

He added: “In our view, targeted support to provide as much help as possible to the households who simply can’t afford to make ends meet, even when they have pared their budget down to basics, is the best way to reduce harm and enable households to keep the lights on and food on the table.”

Person looks at energy bill
Groups welcomed the support package, which includes a £400 energy bill discount (Peter Byrne/PA)

Michael Clarke, head of information programmes at Turn2us, said one-off payments “will only act as a sticking plaster until longer term investment materialises.

He added: “A key reason people have been struggling to stay afloat is because benefits have failed to keep up with the cost of living for years.

“The package of support announced today goes part way to rectifying this, but more must be done in the longer term to ensure everyone can afford the basics and not be reliant on one-off acts of generosity from the Chancellor.”

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said the Chancellor is “kidding himself” if he thinks the measures will prevent people from being set so far back they might never recover.

She said: “If the Chancellor is serious about supporting those who are struggling then he will need to make long-term changes to the structure of the social security system and restore the value of benefits to something that families can really live on.”

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak announced the new measures but groups warned that longer-term solutions were needed (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Richard Kramer, chief executive of national disability charity Sense, said: “The cash will bring immediate relief to many, but the Government must ensure measures go beyond the immediate crisis and support disabled people long-term.”

Morgan Schondelmeier, director of operations at the Adam Smith Institute, welcomed the targeted payments for the most vulnerable households.

But she said deciding a windfall tax is a good idea is a conclusion the Chancellor “should never have reached”.

She added: “Spending months arguing against it both practically and ideologically and then caving to pressure from the left leaves much to be desired for a ‘fiscally conservative’ Chancellor.

“Even with the sensible sunset clause and investment measures, a windfall tax is still not the most effective way to raise revenue and sets a precedent that the UK is a risky place to do business.”