We entered this general election campaign with child poverty at 4 million, projected to rise to 5.1 million by the end of the next parliament (assuming it’s a five-year term). The next government must get to grips with the underlying causes of poverty to make sure all children have a great start in life – and the opportunity to thrive. We have set out the practical steps politicians can take after 8 June to tackle child poverty.
In our manifesto, we’re calling for politicians to:
1. Prioritise child poverty. With a focused effort, involving local authorities and working towards targets, child poverty can be brought down.
2. Protect families from rising living costs. By restoring the link between need and provision, our social security system can help support families as costs rise. Adding £5 a week to child benefit, and protecting children’s benefits with a ‘triple lock’ (increasing them in line with earnings, inflation or 2.5 per cent, whichever is greater) will help enormously – the triple lock alone will lift 600,000 children out of poverty. Scrapping the benefit cap and the two-child limit on tax credits and universal credit will also reduce child poverty.
3. Make universal credit fit for working families. To ensure universal credit meets its aims, work allowances need to be restored, with an allowance added for second earners. The taper rate needs to be lowered to 55 per cent. Challenges we are finding as universal credit is rolled out – including problems caused by the six-week wait – need to be addressed urgently to make the new system work.
4. Prevent demand for foodbanks. We know that people often use foodbanks because they are unfairly sanctioned or there is a delay or error with their benefits. With better access to benefit advances, hardship payments and local welfare assistance, much of the demand for foodbanks would go away. Sanctions should be a last resort, and everyone should have access to good advice about their benefits.
5. Develop a visionary national childcare strategy. Great childcare ensures families can work – but it is too expensive for many families. A funded strategy, allowing flexibility for parents and quality childcare year-round for children from the age of two, will open up doors for families to work.
Poverty in childhood leads to children missing out, doing less well in school and earning less as adults. It is not inevitable. The next government must invest in our children to ensure everyone has the opportunity to do well in life, regardless of the circumstances of their birth.