Child poverty set for ‘sharp rise’ amid stagnating living standards and welfare cuts

Child poverty risks hitting record levels in the next few years amid “stagnating” living standards for households, a new study suggests.

The Resolution Foundation said the incomes of typical working-age households are not forecast to rise materially over the next two years.

The think tank said the “bleak” forecast for living standards is mainly driven by weak pay growth, which is projected to remain below pre-crisis levels of 4% despite recent increases.

Ongoing welfare cuts are set to cause a “sharp rise” in relative child poverty, so that by the end of the current Parliament the proportion of children living in relative poverty is on course to hit 37%, said the foundation.

It added that, by the end of the current Parliament, most children in single parent families or in those with more than two children, could be living in relative poverty.

Adam Corlett, senior economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “UK households have already taken a £1,500 a year hit to their incomes, compared to pre-referendum expectations.

“There’s now a huge risk that their incomes stagnate over the next few years, as the economy’s pay performance struggles to get out of first gear.

“The outlook for low and middle income families is particularly tough, with ongoing benefit cuts set to drive down income levels and drive up child poverty.

“The UK’s current economic outlook is highly uncertain, and will hopefully surprise on the upside, but whatever direction the economy takes, the government must reassess the continuation of working-age welfare cuts.

“Otherwise, its non-Brexit record risks being stained by a return to record levels of child poverty.”

Campbell Robb (pictured), chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, commented: “The continuing failure to get to grips with rising child poverty seriously undermines what we stand for as a country.

“More and more children are going to school hungry, having to go without a proper winter coat or living in a family who are unable to afford a decent home.

“It is within the Government’s power to stem the rising tide of child poverty before it reaches a record high.

“The benefits freeze is the single biggest policy pushing families into hardship.

“Low-income families cannot afford another year of their support falling further behind the prices they have to pay.”

Child Poverty Action Group’s director of policy Louisa McGeehan, said: “After years of deep social security cuts we are on the cusp of a child poverty crisis which will damage both the life chances of a generation and the wider economy.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Years of falling wages and benefit cuts have come at a terrible human cost. Millions are struggling to put food on the table and clothe their kids.

“The Government needs to stop pretending the problem doesn’t exist and must help the many working families who can’t make ends meet.”

A Government spokesman said: “Our priority is to support people to improve their lives.

“Since 2010 we’ve introduced the National Living Wage, doubled free childcare for three- and four-year-olds, and cut taxes for 32 million people to help families meet the everyday cost of living and keep more of what they earn. Yesterday’s figures show the unemployment rate is the joint lowest since 1975 and wages are growing at the fastest rate in over a decade, outpacing inflation for nearly a year.

“But we know that some people need more support. That’s why we’re spending £90 billion to support families who need it, and by 2022 we will be spending £28 billion more on welfare than we do now.”

Margaret Greenwood, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “This report is a damning verdict on almost nine years of Conservative austerity.

“Over four million children are growing up in poverty under this Government and that figure is set to rise to over five million in the next few years.

“Labour will stop the roll-out of Universal Credit, put an end to zero-hour contracts and introduce a Real Living Wage of £10 an hour.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Joseph Rowntree Foundation.