For a Prime Minister who walked into Downing Street decrying the ‘burning injustice’ of poverty and contrasting the opportunities available to some children but not others, there was a disappointing omission in last week’s budget: child poverty.
Broken promises: What has happened to support for low-income working families under universal credit
Today’s Guardian covered new analysis by CPAG and IPPR on the impact of cuts to universal credit. This analysis shows that universal credit cuts will hit families with children hardest, and will be poverty-producing to the tune of around a million children (comparing universal credit as originally designed with its current form).
Today sees the benefit cap – the limit on total benefits which households can receive if no-one works at least 16 hours a week – fall from £26,000 a year to £20,000, or £23,000 in London. The 20,000 or so families currently capped will see their housing benefit reduced overnight by £500 or £250 a month, starting from today. That’s a huge amount to expect people to find from their other income, but most will have to do that or risk losing their home. For new households, the cap will be introduced in phases starting with local authorities with the fewest affected households and finishing with those with the most (such as Birmingham) in February 2017.
It’s a public policy reform that has the potential to help the Government to solve two major policy headaches – improving access to affordable childcare for working parents and helping schools cut the attainment gap between richer and poorer children – but the number of extended schools remains inadequate.
This year, we'll again be at the Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative party conferences, holding fringe events to stimulate discussion of child poverty and it's solutions in the parties. The events will debate what reforms are needed to stop the projected 50% increase in child poverty by the next election in 2020. Is universal credit still fit for purpose? What would a robust life chances strategy look like? And an effective childcare strategy? How can we ensure that social security protects the vulnerable while enabling parents to get better off by earning more?