Poverty campaigners have called on the UK government to increase the value of weekly child benefit payments, as new research reveals that a rising number of families are forced to use lifeline benefits to cover bills and everyday living costs.
Campaigners claim that child benefit has lost 23% of its value since 2010 because of freezes and sub-inflationary uprating
Furthermore, parents earning under £60,000 may still be eligible for the benefit, but because of the high income child benefit charge, it is reduced by 1% for each £100 earned over £50,000.
Because of this, campaigners argue that more families lose out every year. In 2013/14 when the charge was introduced, 13% of families lost at least some child benefit. In 2019/20 it is estimated that 18% of families (1.4 million) were affected by the charge and of these 1 million will have lost all of their entitlement.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) is calling for a £10 weekly increase in child benefit to ensure that parents can protect their children from hardship.
They argue that the Coronavirus pandemic has forced families to reign in their spending to the point where many are struggling to meet the costs associated with their child’s education.
CPAG has criticised a lack of support measures from central government, besides a temporary extension of free school meals replacement vouchers.
Chief Executive Alison Garnham said: “This week especially many parents will be worrying about whether they’ve got enough money to meet their children’s needs as they face an exceptionally expensive post-lockdown return to school.
“Some will have been asked to supply masks and learning equipment and packed lunches for the school day, and almost all will have to buy new shoes and uniforms for children who’ve outgrown their old kit after months at home.
“In the period ahead, as the coronavirus recession takes hold, we are likely to see many more families falling into hardship and many more parents struggling to stop their children from slipping into poverty.
“Yet there was nothing in the Government’s economic response to the pandemic that offered ongoing targeted financial support for children.
“For almost 50 years, child benefit has been there for children as a minimum protection against poverty but its value has been eroded and as our survey shows, hard-pressed parents are increasingly having to spend it on general household essentials.
“That isn’t right. As a nation we invest in the state pension to support everyone in retirement, we should be investing just as much in child benefit to support all families with the extra costs of children.
“Re-investing in child benefit is the least we can do to shore up children’s life chances in these uncertain times.”