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News > UK >

Charity warns of 'more poor children'

by Tim Wyatt

Posted: 30 May 2014 @ 12:19

SHUTTERSTOCK

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Credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

A NEW report by Save the Children is warning that the number of children in poverty in Britain could rocket to 4.9 million by 2020.

A Fair Start for Every Child, which was released on Wednesday, predicts that, because of stagnant wages and welfare cuts, 1.4 million more children would be living in poverty by 2020. The total will then be the highest recorded level of child poverty in the UK for a generation.

The chief executive of Save the Children, Justin Forsyth, said: "We're increasingly worried that, unless there is a dramatic change of course, we're at risk of writing off the future of millions of British children. Far too many are living in cold and damp homes, without healthy food, with parents who can see no end to their situation. In one of the world's richest countries, there is simply no excuse."

Child poverty is defined as being when a household income is 60 per cent below the national average.Today, this applies to 27 per cent of British children - some 3.5 million.

The figure of 4.9 million forecast for 2020 has been reached by adding the impact of planned welfare cuts - agreed to by the three main parties - to estimates from the Institute of Fiscal Studies think tank, which already predicts child poverty will reach 4.7 million.

The Child Poverty Act 2010 sets the Government a legal target to eradicate child poverty by 2020; but the Save the Children report argues that no political party is taking this seriously.

Mr Forsyth said: "The current all-party commitments to social- security cuts in the next Parliament, combined with underlying labour market trends and inflation, mean that no party has a coherent plan to avoid this crisis. Our political class is sleepwalking towards the highest levels of child poverty since records began, while promising to eradicate it completely."

A Fair Start for Every Child suggests that the main drivers of child poverty are the lack of growth in real-terms wages, the failure of the welfare system to provide a sufficient safety net, and the rising cost of basic items such as food. It recommends that politicians actively encourage employers to pay staff the Living Wage, as well as ensuring above-inflation increases in the minimum wage.

It also calls for a minimum-income guarantee for families with young children, for more social housing, cheaper childcare, and action to help the poor access cost-effective energy tariffs.

CSAN, the Roman Catholic Church's social-action arm, welcomed the report. Its chief executive Helen O'Brien, said: "Employment on its own is not a solution to poverty, and urgent reform of the labour market is needed."

The report's findings were endorsed by the Green Party; and the Labour Party responded by saying that it had lifted a million children out of poverty while it was in power.

In February, the Government issued a draft strategy to end child poverty by 2020, which was welcomed by the Bishops of Leicester and Birmingham (News, 7 March). The Bishops cautioned, however, that "clear leadership" and "cross-party consensus" would be needed to achieve the target.

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