Relentless Tory austerity threatens to plunge a million more children into poverty, a damning new report warns.
Experts found the impact of years of Conservative cuts coupled with slashed benefits under the new Universal Credit system have made a mockery of the government’s pledge to make work pay.
The shocking report, published this week by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Institute for Public Policy Research, shows poorer families and children will be the hardest hit by the fresh cuts – including those in working households.
Lone parents will be £750 worse off a year on average because of cuts to Universal Credit while couples will lose £250 a year, the report shows – resulting in a million more children living in poverty by the end of the decade.
More than a quarter of all children – around 3.7m – in Tory Britain currently live in poverty, a rate climbing steadily since 2010. Of the children in poverty, 63 percent live in a working household.
CPAG chief executive Alison Garnham said, “Since 2010, rather than investing in our children, government policy has been creating an austerity generation whose childhoods and life chances will be scarred by a decade of political decisions to stop protecting their living standards.
“The promise of increased rewards from work made to families with children under the new Universal Credit benefit has been broken. The Universal Credit we see today is not the Universal Credit that was sold to everyone a few years ago.”
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman dismissed the report’s findings, claiming that “there are now 200,000 fewer children living in poverty than in 2010”.
He said, “This report assumes that people won’t take any steps to improve their lives, which we know is untrue. Unlike the old system, Universal Credit rewards those working more hours.”
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the idea that people will simply find extra hours to make up the shortfall is “complete nonsense”.
“Britain’s low pay economy is based around employers benefiting from short hours and insecure work,” said Turner.
“Instead of reducing the welfare bill by forcing unscrupulous bosses into improving pay and conditions for those in low paid and precarious work, which is what it should be doing, the government is allowing Britain’s culture of exploitative employment practices to thrive and punishing those most at risk.”
Turner called for the troubled roll out of Universal Credit to be halted while the system is made fit for purpose.
He said, “On top of reducing waiting times for Universal Credit claims that are pushing families into poverty and debt, the government must to abandon in-work conditionality for part-time and low paid Universal Credit claimants and increase its overall funding levels.
“As the report makes clear, the future of an entire generation of children is at risk. For their sake we need a government that stops destroying our social safety net, legislates against a race to the bottom labour market and enforces a minimum wage that people can actually live on.”
The call came as a separate report showed that more than third of people earning less than the real living wage (RLW) – £9.75 in London and £8.45 across the rest of the UK – regularly forego meals to save money.