Whichever party wins the general election, it will be faced with a growing child poverty problem that threatens to undermine any domestic social reform agenda. That’s why, this week, Child Poverty Action Group published our manifesto to tackle the issue head on.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that the number of children in poverty is set to reach 5.1 million by 2022. It’s currently at 4 million – which is nine children in a classroom of 30. Low income families are struggling to make ends meet with rising costs and frozen benefits. The effects of poverty in childhood can cut deep and be lifelong.
Our manifesto sets out how the next government can reduce child poverty and ensure all children have the chance to thrive.
Firstly, it must prioritise child poverty. We know that when child poverty is prioritised, significant progress can be made. Targets are vital to bringing child poverty down. Child poverty must be a priority for the Treasury and No.11, as much as it is for the DWP.
With rising living costs, the next government must, secondly, protect families by ensuring that there is a link between what they need to provide the essentials for their kids, and what they get from our social security system. The next government should:
- Protect children’s benefits with a ‘triple lock’ (increasing them in line with earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent, whichever is greater) – this will lift 600,000 children out of poverty.
- Scrap the benefit cap, which will reduce child poverty by 100,000.
- Remove the two-child limit on tax credits and universal credit to reduce child poverty by 200,000.
Thirdly, the new benefit universal credit has to be made fit for working families. Taking these steps would lead to a huge reduction in child poverty:
- Restoring work allowances would reduce child poverty by 300,000.
- Establishing a work allowance for second earners would lead to 100,000 fewer children in poverty.
- Lowering the taper rate would reduce child poverty by 200,000.
Our research shows that many people are using foodbanks because of unfair sanctions, or when there is a delay or error in their benefits. So fourthly, to prevent demand for foodbanks, the next government should ensure there is better access to benefit advances, hardship payments and local welfare assistance. Sanctions should always be a last resort.
Finally, to tackle the high cost of childcare and the knock-on effects of this, the next government must develop a visionary national childcare strategy. Affordable childcare ensures families can work – we need a strategy that gives families flexibility and gives children quality childcare.
These steps will lead to fewer children in poverty. We know that child poverty is not inevitable. The next government must take action.
Lizzie Flew, Child Poverty Action Group
This is a guest blog, kindly provided by the Child Poverty Action Group. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Equality Trust.