A RISE in the number of children living in poverty has been condemned by the Bishop of Durham, Dr Paul Butler.
Figures released last week by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) showed that 4.1 million — almost one third of the country’s child population — were living in homes experiencing relative poverty: a measure defined as earnings, after housing costs, below 60 per cent of the median income of £507 a week. Of those, 70 per cent were in working families.
Bishop Butler said: “It is surely wrong, in a just and compassionate society, that so many children are growing up in poverty. The early years are crucial to a child’s development; so it is imperative that we do all that we can to support families to give their children a good start in life.
“That is why we are calling for an end to the two-child limit, as this policy will push even more children deeper into poverty over the next few years. We can and should redesign the welfare system around the needs of children.”
The DWP statistics for 2017-18 show that more than two million (53 per cent) of the children are under five: up from 51 per cent a year earlier. The increase was attributed partially to inflation, and accommodation costs’ taking a bigger portion of household finances.
The Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that eight million people in poverty were in working families. Its general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Millions of people are working hard, but still locked in poverty. That’s not right. The system is broken, with low pay, insecure work, and the benefits freeze trapping families below the breadline.”
The Child Poverty Action Group said that the current benefit freeze would put another 100,000 children into poverty by 2023-24. The chief executive, Alison Garnham, said that the figures made “grim reading”.