Help families in poverty trap

Anna Feuchtwang
Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The steady rise in child poverty in recent years is a national disgrace, and should be a code-red priority for political parties of every hue.

Anna Feuchtwang is chief executive of NCB
Anna Feuchtwang is chief executive of NCB

A first step must be the long overdue reform of the benefits system. We want all parties to reject the idea of limiting welfare benefits to two children in a family. It is glaringly unjust and is having a devastating effect on families. Both universal credit and tax credits must be improved so families are not denied the support they need from our social security system, and children from larger families are not discriminated against.

Reforming benefits will start to ease the pressure on families, but we also need to support low-income families in other ways.

First, while the free childcare offer currently available to some families is welcome, it is too narrow to allow some low-income families to profit from work opportunities. Because only two-year-olds whose parents are eligible for certain benefits qualify for free childcare, and the majority of three- to four-year-olds are limited to only 15 hours, many families find that work doesn’t pay after shouldering the extra costs of getting their children looked after. In fact, the majority of families living in poverty are working families.

We support the children’s commissioner’s assessment that at least £10bn of investment is needed at the next Spending Review in order to support all children to thrive.

The sad fact is that child poverty has increased as education and children’s services budgets have dwindled. It’s time policymakers came together to reverse this inequality and started helping those families caught in the poverty trap.

Child poverty is not inevitable and with the right policies it can be solved.

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