A record 3m children are living in working households in poverty after housing costs have been paid, new figures published this week have revealed.
The shocking statistics, published by the government’s own Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), mean that the vast majority, 70 per cent, of all children in poverty live in households where parents or guardians are in work – up from 67 per cent the previous year.
The rising number of poor children in working families has again decimated the view, often repeated by the Tory government, that work is the best route of poverty.
And as the number of children in poverty rises, their average age has fallen – now, 53 per cent of kids below the breadline are under the age of 5.
Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that nearly 900,000 children lived in poverty solely because of skyrocketing housing costs – a 30 per cent increase since 2010, according to an analysis from the National Housing Federation (NHF) of the data.
“We are now seeing the full effects of the housing crisis and a direct link between the lack of affordable homes and in-work poverty,” said NHF chief executive Kate Henderson.
“There could not be a clearer signal to government that the country desperately needs more social housing – direct investment in the upcoming spending review is the only way to provide truly affordable homes for these families. This is more crucial than ever in the midst of Brexit uncertainty.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the latest figures showed the need for government action.
“We need to redesign the economy to make it fair again,” she said. “People need more control over their working lives and a fairer share of the wealth they create.”
UNITElive reported from the frontlines of child poverty last year, when we highlighted a local Unite Community free lunches project in Norwich aiming to tackle holiday hunger over the summer. The Unite Community branch gave over 500 packed lunches to children aged 16 and under and went on to host a similar project over the Christmas holidays.
Unite has singled out the roll-out of Universal Credit as a main driver of child poverty as the union aims to fight back and scrap the welfare reform.
Reflecting on the Unite Community summer project in Norwich, Unite Community Norfolk branch secretary Brian Green said, “At the heart of our campaign now is tackling Universal Credit by ‘preparing the resistance and providing the assistance’.”
Commenting on the latest statistics, Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner condemned the Tories’ record on child poverty.
“Tackling child poverty needs urgent action and the solutions are well within our grasp – now more than ever after the likely economic shocks of Brexit we need a complete break from the policies of austerity,” Turner said.
“We must have a policy of economic investment to grow decent, well-paid jobs and a comprehensive social security system – we need it for the sake of our children and their futures.”