Campaigners have today called on the UK Government to end a four-year freeze to working-age benefits and reverse planned cuts to Universal Credit, as new research reveals almost half of children in some parts of the UK are living in poverty.
Child poverty is the highest in parts of London, Manchester and Birmingham. The local authorities with the highest proportion of children in poverty are Tower Hamlets (43.5%), Manchester (40%), Westminster (37.7%), Islington (37.7%), Newham (37.5%) and Birmingham (37%).
Theresa May’s constituency of Maidenhead is among twenty with the lowest levels of child poverty. These include Gordon, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, Sheffield Hallam, and York Outer – all of which have figures between 9% and 10%.
The End Child Poverty coalition is urging Chancellor Philip Hammond to use his Autumn Statement to end the freeze on children’s benefits, and to reverse cuts being introduced to in-work allowances under Universal Credit.
Chair of End Child Poverty Sam Royston said: “As the Prime Minister has rightly recognised, this is not a country that works for everyone.
“In every community, there are children being denied the happy childhoods and the good start in life other children take for granted. Our children are now twice as likely to be poor as our pensioners.
“Many families who are just about managing today, won’t be managing tomorrow if Universal Credit leaves them with fewer pounds in their pocket, and if rising costs of living means their money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.
“This month’s Autumn Statement is a major opportunity for the new government to act to help these families. We urge the Chancellor to reverse the significant cuts to Universal Credit targeted at working families and, at the very least, shield children’s benefits from inflation.”
The call has seemingly been echoed by former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, who has warned planned cuts to in-work allowances under Universal Credit will weaken work incentives and leave people around £1,00 a year worse off.
Writing for the Conservative Home blog, Mr Duncan Smith argues: “At present, the 2016 Budget’s plan to reduce UC work allowances will not be the most effective way of controlling welfare expenditure and, moreover, it goes against the key principles.
“The planned reduction will affect more than three million people, reducing their income by an average of over £1,000 per year. This will reduce people’s incentive to move into work.
“Moreover, in November 2015 the previous Chancellor decided to reverse the reduction in working tax credits, increasing the pressure on UC as it created an artificial disincentive to move to UC from Tax Credits.”
He added: “I hope the Government will therefore consider what I propose and re-instate the work allowances to UC.
“Whilst this could cost up to £3.4 billion by 2022, this could be afforded by adjusting the planned increases in the income tax personal allowance or even by slowing down the planned increases, which should generate sufficient savings and better target the money.”
Figures published by Trussell Trust earlier this week revealed that more than 500,000 food parcels had been given to families in crisis during the first six months of 2016, including over 188,500 to children.