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
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
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
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.