The SNP has demanded that the UK government take child poverty seriously after Boris Johnson dismissed the rising rate and claimed it had declined – despite research revealing 600,000 more children are now living in poverty than in 2012.
The latest report by the Social Mobility Commission also stated that the UK child poverty rate is projected to increase to 5.2 million by 2022 and be impacted further by Covid-19.
The report condemned Tory austerity cuts to families with children and highlighted that over the past seven years there has been “little or no action” by the UK government on a third of its previous recommendations, including ensuring that child poverty is not exacerbated by Universal Credit.
Recent analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children also found that 7 in 10 families with children who are claiming Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit have been forced to cut back on essentials, 6 in 10 families had to borrow money, and over 5 in 10 were behind on rent or other essential bills.
The SNP’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Neil Gray MP, has written to the Prime Minister calling for urgent reforms to the UK social security system to tackle rising child poverty.
The reforms include:
- Make Universal Credit advance payments non-repayable grants instead of loans. This will take away the five-week wait for the first payment and prevent people from falling into, or further into, debt
- Uplift the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit by £20 per week – as called for by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children
- Increase legacy benefits including Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and child benefit to restore lost value from the four-year benefit freeze.
- Scrap the benefit cap, the two-child limit and its associated rape clause, the bedroom tax, and the sanctions regime. These policies only exacerbate child poverty.
- Urgently introducing an emergency basic payment to help families in financial difficulty and prevent more people from falling through the gaps of support during the coronavirus crisis
- Re-establish UK-wide child poverty targets, which they scrapped, as well as the Commission reporting on their progress.
Commenting, Neil Gray MP said: “It is beyond shameful that the Tories are point-blank ignoring overwhelming evidence that child poverty is on the rise – and is an indictment of their complete incompetence and ignorance.
“After a decade of brutal austerity cuts – which have served only to exacerbate poverty – and a global pandemic, it is now more critical than ever that the UK government starts taking child poverty seriously and rebuilds the social security net it spent years systematically destroying.
“If it will not, poverty rates will continue to soar and we will see long lasting damage for generations to come.
“Loss of income and rising debt increases anxiety for parents and growing up in poverty has severe educational, health and developmental consequences for children – but this doesn’t need to be the case.
“I am urging the Tories to heed our calls to rebuild the welfare system so that everyone in the UK has a safety net.
“They can start by introducing an emergency basic payment to help families struggling due to the current crisis, and uplift the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit by £20 a week to ease the pressure on families and prevent them from having to choose between paying essential bills or feeding their children.”