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‘Terrible human cost’

Tories preside over skyrocketing child poverty rates in working households
Hajera Blagg, Monday, November 18th, 2019

Child poverty among working families has skyrocketed according to the latest figures, in a damning testament to the damage Tory-led governments have wrought during their last near-decade in power.


A new analysis from the TUC found that the number of children growing up in poverty in working households has increased by an astonishing 800,000 since 2010.


There are now nearly 3m children part of working families who are living in poverty, up 38 per cent from a decade ago. By 2018, one in four children in working households were living below the breadline, compared to one in five in 2010.


The analysis published today (November 18) found that more than half of those children who account for the increase — 485,000 — were pushed into poverty as a direct result of the government’s in-work benefit cuts.


Other reasons identified as driving the rise in child poverty include historically weak wage growth, the increase in insecure work such as zero-hours contracts, and population growth. Belying the oft-repeated Tory claim that work is the best route out of poverty, the overall rise in the number of working households hasn’t been enough to lift families above the breadline, the TUC found.


Some regions in the UK were worse off than others, with London, East of England and the West Midlands suffering the biggest increases of child poverty among working households. London has seen a 68 per cent increase in child poverty among working families over the last decade, while the West Midlands and East England saw a 56 per cent jump.


The latest child poverty figures have prompted critics to highlight that after years of falls in child poverty under previous Labour governments, it began to rise again under Tory-led governments. Instead of taking action on child poverty, the Tory-led government scrapped child poverty reduction targets in 2016 altogether.


The TUC analysis comes as separate figures on overall poverty have found 4.5m children living below the breadline.


The new study from the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), an independent body of poverty experts, found that more than half of the total of 14m people living in poverty have been trapped below the breadline for years.


The SMC’s analysis is considered to be the most sophisticated of its kind, and has notably built in core living costs such as rent and childcare into its measure of poverty, which has not been done before. This recognises the fact that while a family may have a decent income, this can be significantly eroded by high living costs.


The spotlight on child poverty today (November 18) comes just days after new figures on the rise in food bank use were published on Wednesday (November 13). The latest data from the Trussell Trust showed a record 301,653 emergency food parcels were handed out to children in the last 6 months months alone.


Commenting on today’s latest figures on child poverty, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said, “No child in Britain should be growing up in poverty. But millions of parents are struggling to feed and clothe their kids. That is not right.


“The Conservatives’ cuts to in-work benefits have come at a terrible human cost. As too has their failure to tackle insecure work and get wages rising across the economy,” she added.


“We need a government that puts working families first, not wealthy donors and hedge funds.”


The TUC has recommended a number of steps to tackle child poverty, including raising the minimum wage to £10 an hour, scrapping Universal Credit, banning zero-hours contracts. It has also called for workers to be given new rights join unions and bargain for better pay and conditions across industries.


So far, only the Labour party has already committed to meeting each and every recommendation put forward by the TUC. Labour has also pledged to invest £1bn in a new generation of Sure Start centres, radically expand early years education and give 30 hours of free early years education to each week to every child aged two to four — moves that will also help combat child poverty.


Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said tackling child poverty was a challenge that was well within our grasp.


“But it’s an issue that requires urgent action,” he said. “We must have a policy of economic investment to grow decent, well-paid jobs and a comprehensive social security system that keeps families from falling through the cracks.


“No child should have to bear the indignity of hunger and poverty. The Tories, who have overseen an explosion in child poverty rates while responding to the crisis by scrapping child poverty targets altogether, should hang their heads in shame. Only Labour — which has a proven track record in government of bringing child poverty rates down — has committed to tackling the problem with a raft of policies that get to the heart of the issue.”




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