Our recommendations to the UK government in advance of the Autumn Statement:
- Invest in children by increasing social security benefits. There are 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK so this would be a highly cost-effective investment – it reduces child poverty immediately and leads to improved education, employment and health outcomes, including life expectancy.
- Over time, benefit freezes, sub-inflationary upratings, and other harmful policies have increased the gap between entitlement and need. Scrapping the two-child limit and removing the benefit cap would make the most difference to children living in poverty.
- Raise child benefit by £20 a week – this would substantially reduce child poverty and help low- and middle-income families who have been struggling with the cost of living.
- Roll out universal free school meals across England – supporting pupils’ learning and attainment, and reducing the pressure on household budgets.
These measures would all reduce the extent and depth of poverty, but there are also some immediate steps that need to be taken to ease cost of living pressures and ensure child poverty does not rise further:
- Social security benefits need to be uprated in April 2024 by, at least, September 2023 CPI.
- Reduce the monthly cap on deductions to 15 per cent of the standard allowance and introduce a DWP deduction cap of 5 per cent (in-line with the private sector).
- The local housing allowance (LHA) freeze needs to be lifted, so that housing support accurately reflects the prices renters are paying (the benefit cap must also be lifted to ensure all households receive support).
- The government must commit to further funding for the household support fund, which is due to run out of funding in March, alongside a long-term strategy for local crisis support.
In addition to these actions, which would make an immediate difference to children and families living in poverty, the government should ensure that plans to tackle economic inactivity meaningfully help parents and carers into work:
- Second earners in households claiming universal credit (UC) should feel the financial benefits of working, by introducing a second earner work allowance.
- Lead parents and carers in households claiming UC should be able to access tailored employment support.
- Many low-income families include someone who is ill or disabled. Proposed changes to disability benefits designed to encourage people into work must not restrict access to these benefits, which so many families rely on.
- Childcare is a significant barrier that prevents many parents and carers from working. In the long-term, provide a high quality publicly funded universal childcare system. In the short term, remove work requirements from funded childcare, invest in extended schools, and increase the generosity of childcare support provided through UC.