‘No coherent plan’ to deal with rising child poverty

Published on Wednesday, 28 May 2014 11:06
Written by Daniel Mason

Five million children in the UK could be trapped in poverty by 2020 as politicians have failed to develop a coherent plan to tackle the crisis, a charity has warned.

In a report published today, Save the Children said that with families hit by flat wages, rising living costs and cuts to benefits, young people had paid the highest price in the recession.

And it blamed politicians as new projections showed that child poverty was set to rise by 41% by the end of this decade, despite a cross-party pledge to eradicate it. That increase would see an additional 1.4 million children in poverty compared with today's 3.5 million.

"We're increasingly worried that unless there is a dramatic change of course we're at risk of writing off the future of millions of British children, giving them an unfair start in life," said Save the Children's chief executive, Justin Forsyth.

He said millions of children were being "left behind" and were forced to live in cold and damp homes without healthy food.

The political commitment to end child poverty was currently little more than window dressing, according to the charity. While child poverty fell between 1998 and 2004 but then progress stalled, it said.

In a national survey of 4,000 parents, 50% of those on low incomes had seen their incomes decrease in the last five years, 70% had difficulty making payments and 40% said they had got into debt.

Forsyth added: "The current all-party commitments to social security cuts in the next parliament combined with underlying labour market trends and inflation mean no party has a coherent plan to avoid this crisis.

"Our political class is sleepwalking towards the highest levels of child poverty since records began while promising to eradicate it completely. It's time our politicians face the scale of the crisis head on and each party set out a concrete plan to get us back on track ahead of the general election."

Save the Children called for new policies to ensure that every child has access to high quality affordable healthcare, a guaranteed income for families with children under five years of age, and a 'national mission' to get all children reading well by age 11.

"If we ignore the rising toll of poverty we are blighting the future of a further 1.4 million children. In one of the world's richest countries there is simply no excuse," Forsyth said.

Responding to the report, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves, said: "The last Labour government lifted over one million children out of poverty, built children's centres and introduced child tax credits. Under David Cameron child poverty is set to rise, not fall, and the cost of living crisis has left millions of families struggling to make ends meet.

"A Labour government will freeze energy prices, raise the minimum wage, extend free childcare provision, scrap the bedroom tax and introduce a compulsory jobs guarantee to get people off benefits and into work."

Jonathan Bartley, the Green party's work and pensions spokesman, said: "This report is a wake-up call. A whole generation of children from poorer families risks being left behind, because of the policy failures of the three biggest parties. A change of course is urgently required.

"Investment to effectively meet the needs of children and their families and carers produces a healthier, more balanced and secure society, with reduced costs in criminal justice, social services and other areas of spending."

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