Fifth of families struggle to buy food, campaigners warn

Joe Lepper
Friday, May 22, 2015

One in five families are struggling to provide their children with basic food and heating due to below-inflation rises to children's benefits, child poverty campaigners are warning.

According to analysis by the End Child Poverty coalition, the government’s curbs on child tax credit and child benefit rises have left 1.5 million families, two thirds of which are in low-income work, struggling to pay bills and buy food.

The campaign group’s report Short Changed: The True Cost of Cuts to Children’s Benefits says more than two million children have suffered as a result.

It calls on the new Conservative government to ensure children’s benefits rise in line with the cost of living.

End Child Poverty wants to see children’s benefits given a similar “triple lock” as the basic state pension.

This guarantees a rise in line with prices, earnings or by 2.5 per cent, whichever is the highest.

The move would remove 310,000 from living in absolute poverty by 2020, claims the campaign group.

End Child Poverty chair David Holmes said: “It is deeply worrying that parents are having to cut back on food, heating and other essentials that their children need in order to develop and thrive.

“The new government needs to seize the opportunity in the Queen’s Speech to stop the rise in child poverty.

"During the election campaign David Cameron promised not to cut child benefit, now is the time for him to keep that pledge.

“We think it is vital that child benefits keep pace with the cost of living and that the government gives them the same protection as the state pension.

“This is an opportunity to be bold and to invest in our children’s future.”

A typical low-income working family loses £513 a year as a result of the coalition’s decision in 2012 to only increase child tax credits and child benefit by one per cent between 2013 and 2016 regardless of the rate of inflation, the End Child Poverty analysis also found.

In addition, the coalition wants to see the Conservative government put in place a “roadmap” to show what steps it will take to fulfil its commitment to end child poverty by 2020.

Charity 4Children has backed the call for a triple lock on children’s benefits. Its director of external affairs Helen Berresford said: “It is very worrying to hear that families today are having to cut back on essentials, so important to helping families thrive.

"This report highlights the significant impact of child benefit and child tax credits failing to keep up with the cost of living.

“Investing in children makes social and economic sense – giving children the best start in life and setting them up for the future.

“The triple lock for pensions is used to guarantee a vulnerable section of society is protected, we should demand the same for our children.”

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