Since 2010, the government has ignored rising child poverty while repeating the mantra that work is the best route out of poverty. Work is indeed a factor in escaping poverty, but it needs to be secure work, with a decent wage, decent hours and prospects. In-work poverty is on the rise with 70 per cent of children growing up in poverty having a parent who works. Together with colleagues at the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), we set out to discover how the introduction of universal credit has affected Usdaw members.
Child poverty in the UK
Child poverty in the UK is rising. The Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that child poverty will rise from the current level of 4.1 million to 5.2 million by 2021/22. This is largely due to cuts in the social security system that many children and families rely on. At the same time, other public services have seen significant cutbacks, which can leave families struggling on low incomes with little support.
In a week when CPAG has published the brilliant new book Living hand to mouth – children and food in low income families by Rebecca O’Connell, Abigail Knight and Julia Brannen, it might seem strange to suggest that food is not the solution to hunger.
Every March the government releases raw data on poverty – called Households Below Average Income. Presented without government spin, we can look at the numerous tables and work out what these numbers – which look so benign on a spreadsheet – mean for actual children. Children growing up worried about money, missing out on things other kids take for granted, and taking the effects of poverty with them into adulthood. What can we learn from the stats this year?
The benefits freeze has left families out in the cold – but just £20 per month for families would help restore children’s benefits and keep 100,000 out of poverty.
This blog shows what has happened to the value of three important social security benefits since 2009 up to last year 2018. Results are presented for three benefits:
In the words of the Sergeant Pepper song, ’It was twenty years ago today…’, on 18 March 1999, that the British government pledged to be the first to end child poverty in a generation. By 2010, there were 1.1 million fewer children in poverty. We proved once and for all that child poverty is policy-responsive, that it can be cut, and we were half way to showing it could be eliminated. Half-way, that is, to the target to get down to 10 per cent - a target we were on track to achieve by March 2020.
Lunch at the school canteen in Lisbon (left) and in London (right)