Child poverty campaigners say kids should ‘trump potholes and pubs’ in budget

Top campaigners have hit out at the Government's budget saying action on child poverty "must trump potholes and pubs."

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced today that among the government's new measures there will be £50million spent on repairing potholes, business rates discount to protect pubs, and beer, wine, cider and spirits duties will also be frozen.

There will also be a 100% retail discount on business rates to protect hotels, pubs and guest houses.

Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit will also be temporarily removed but the government failed to announce measures that will directly tackle growing child poverty numbers.

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: "When it comes to the nation’s longer-term priorities, action on poverty must trump potholes and pubs. We need to properly re-invest in our social infrastructure.

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"The temporary lifting of the Minimum Income Floor in Universal Credit is very welcome, but to be effective, a plan for prosperity must include fixes to the fundamental design flaws and funding shortfalls that have left universal credit unfit for purpose.

“Universal credit continues to cause havoc for millions so it is disappointing that the Chancellor brought no substantial permanent reforms to the table today.

“It is within the Government’s power to spread opportunity more evenly across the UK and to enable struggling families to get on, but unless funding is restored for universal credit and for children’s benefits, investment in infrastructure will have limited effects.

"This Budget was an opportunity to begin to slow the rise in child poverty but there was no evidence today that low incomes are the priority that they should be in any effective strategy to level up the country and boost the economy."

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Since the Tories came to power in 2010 child poverty has soared by more half a million from 3.6 million to 4.1 million.

The Daily Mirror is calling on the government to raise child benefit by £5 a week to end of child poverty.

A £5-a-week increase would mean families gain £340 a year on average and lift 200,000 children out of poverty.

In addition the benefit cap has left 114,337 single parents worse off as it limits the amount families can receive to £442.31 a week if they live in London and £384.62 in the rest of the country.

Ms Garnham said: "The Government could lift 700,000 children from poverty by 2023 if it restored support for children in Universal Credit to its 2013 value, added £5 to child benefit and removed the two-child limit and benefit cap.

"That would begin to level up those children and to send a strong signal to struggling families that they have not been forgotten.”

End Child Poverty, a coalition of more than 70 charities, Unions, faith groups, professional bodies and community groups is dismayed that the Chancellor has not done more to loosen the grip of poverty on 4.2 million children in the UK.

Anna Feuchtwang, Chair of the End Child Poverty coalition and Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau said: "We welcome the Chancellor’s actions on the benefits system to help the most vulnerable during the Coronavirus crisis.

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"However, low income families could be forgiven for thinking that they are simply not part of the Government’s long term plan for prosperity for this nation.

"This budget was an opportunity, with ambitious policymaking, to set a course of action to end child poverty. It is not right that growing up in poverty restricts and restrains children’s everyday lives and their futures.

"Their chances of prospering are unjustly much less that their peers. Yet this is the reality for 4.2 million children – the majority from working households.

"In addition to increases to the national living wage and reductions to National Insurance, working families need: benefits to keep pace with inflation and private rents; an end to the five week wait for Universal Credit; and an end to the two-child limit.

"And we are disappointed that there has been no increase in child benefit, which the Mirror has been campaigning for. Sadly, without an explicit commitment to end child poverty this isn’t a budget that will mean prosperity for all."

The Chancellor also said in response to the coronavirus crisis statutory sick pay will become available for any advised to self isolate – even if they haven’t presented with symptoms.

A move welcomed by Ms Garnham but she called for more support for people on Universal Credit who have been forced to self-isolate.

“The new coronavirus emergency measures on Statutory Sickness Pay, employment support allowance and universal credit are welcome but low-income families need support in health and in sickness," she said.

“It is critical that universal credit payments are made available immediately on a non-repayable basis to anyone self-isolating who needs to claim.”

In Poplar and Limehouse 58% of children are living in poverty making the east London constituency the child poverty capital in the country.

This is despite it being a few minutes walk from Canary Wharf – home to high-earning bankers and other workers in the financial industry.

In total more than half of children in 10 Parliamentary constituencies officially live in poverty – including areas Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford and Blackburn.

Without action the number of kids in poverty in the UK is set to rise even further from 4.1million to 5.2million in the next two years.

Imran Hussai, Action for Children’s director of policy and campaigns, said: Today’s Budget paid more attention to potholes than it did to the grim and growing crisis in local authority services struggling to keep our children safe from neglect, abuse and harm.

“The government must take urgent action in the upcoming Spending Review to give councils the funding they need to provide vital services to ensure children with a safe and happy childhood.”

Claire Ainsley, Executive Director of the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation, added: This budget was a strong start, but there’s still more to do to target support where it’s needed most.

“Our social security system can be the key to unlocking poverty’s constraints on families, especially those with children who are struggling to get by.

"Boosting this would be much more effective than the changes to the National Insurance thresholds”.

In a column for the Daily Mirror, London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote : "Our research shows that 75,000 more of London’s children will be driven into poverty by 2022 as a result of the Government’s welfare reforms.

"As a society we must stand up and put a stop to this."

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