William Eichler 27 March 2020

Charity calls for ‘emergency measures’ to tackle child poverty

A charity dedicated to fighting child poverty has called on the Government to introduce a package of ‘emergency measures’ to lift children out of poverty.

Yesterday’s publication of annual poverty statistics for 2018- 2019 found that 72% of poor children live in working families - up from 70% in 2017-18.

They also revealed that 15% of poor children have a self-employed parent, which is a record high, and the number of children in poverty rises 100,000 to 4.2 million after housing costs, up from 3.6 million in 2010.

This means that 30% of UK children are below the poverty line.

Over the decade from 2010 to 2020, child benefit – paid to 12.7 million children – will have lost almost a quarter of its value because it has not been updated as prices have risen, the charity says.

Families have also been pushed into poverty or further into poverty through policies that have affected families the most, such as benefit freezes, benefit cap and the two-child policy. Child Poverty Action Group argues that the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has shown that ‘radical action is possible’.

They cite research by Professor Jonathan Bradshaw and Dr Antonia Keung which found that a modest increase in child benefit of £10 per child per week would reduce child poverty by 5%. This is compared to the less than 2% resulting from the £20 universal credit and tax credits uplift announced by the chancellor last week.

A package of emergency measures is possible, the charity says, including removing the two-child limit and benefit cap, restoring the child element in Universal Credit and tax credits to its 2015/16 value and restoring the higher amount for first children, and £5 extra on child benefit.

This package would lift 700,000 children out of poverty and boost the incomes of families with children by £1,000 a year on average, at a cost of £8.3bn.

‘We are facing a child poverty crisis,’ said chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, Alison Garnham.

‘In recent days the Government has taken extraordinary steps, at a pace, to protect the jobs of millions and prevent an economic disaster as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, but still many families in low-paid and insecure jobs will be waking up this morning to the realities of our inadequate social security system.

‘Raising the adult rate in universal credit and tax credits is a welcome improvement, but more is needed when it comes to reducing child poverty. Unless concerted action is taken now, this week’s laid-off workers and their children will be adding to next year’s poverty statistics.’

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