A little over a century ago, the cry among social reformers concerned about the plight of the poor was for a safety net to be stitched together by the state, to catch any of our fellow citizens who were falling into the clutches of destitution.
Had those same reformers witnessed what we have picked up during the past six months – from visits to food banks in Poplar, Waterloo, Leicester, Morecambe, Chester, and Glasgow – they would be appalled by the extent of hunger, homelessness, and insecurity afflicting so many families and vulnerable individuals in our country.
CPAG was founded more than fifty years ago to bring the facts of family poverty to government and public knowledge and to press for reform. The devastating report (2018) by Professor Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, shows how government withdrawal of responsibility and resources during the past decade has led to more families being pushed into poverty, and relief work by NGOs to alleviate poverty is not enough to compensate sufficiently.
The new £10 a week Scottish Child Payment for each child in low income families, announced by the Scottish Government last week, is a game-changer in the fight to end child poverty in Scotland - and a pointer to what is possible, and so badly needed, at UK level.
Latest DWP figures show a consistent picture since the benefit cap was lowered back in November 2016:
This week we heard directly from some of the very many families affected by the two-child limit. Reading their stories has been profoundly moving. These are families trying to ensure their children thrive, hampered by an arbitrary policy that denies them the support they need from our social security system when they experience tough times.
Yesterday the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights shared his final report on poverty in the UK with the UK Government. While it paints a very bleak picture of poverty in the UK – something it says is ‘obvious to anyone who opens their eyes’ – the silver lining is that ‘many of the problems could readily be solved if the Government were to listen to people experiencing poverty, the voluntary sector and local authorities.’
“It’s a fundamental principle in a democracy that governmental bodies must have reasons for their decisions… that they should be able to explain what those reasons are… [and any] decision should be open to review or appeal.” So begins our latest report, Computer says ‘No!’
As our Early Warning System has found increasingly in recent months, people are facing problems with how decisions are being made about their benefits. It’s vital that people have the right of appeal, and that decision-making is clear and fair, and we know this is not always the case. We launched our judicial review project 4 months ago to support advisers when their clients face these problems, and we have already seen some great successes.
Since 2010, the government has ignored rising child poverty while repeating the mantra that work is the best route out of poverty. Work is indeed a factor in escaping poverty, but it needs to be secure work, with a decent wage, decent hours and prospects. In-work poverty is on the rise with 70 per cent of children growing up in poverty having a parent who works. Together with colleagues at the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (Usdaw), we set out to discover how the introduction of universal credit has affected Usdaw members.
Child poverty in the UK
Child poverty in the UK is rising. The Institute for Fiscal Studies projects that child poverty will rise from the current level of 4.1 million to 5.2 million by 2021/22. This is largely due to cuts in the social security system that many children and families rely on. At the same time, other public services have seen significant cutbacks, which can leave families struggling on low incomes with little support.