Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The UKs proud record for reducing child poverty is unravelling.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has released its latest projections for poverty levels and they make for cold reading.

Despite predicted growth in median income of 5.1% by 2022 levels of absolute poverty in the UK are likely to remain unchanged, child poverty could rise by 4.1% over the same period.

The South East, Yorkshire and Scotland will, the IFS say, see poverty levels fall, in the North East, North West, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Midlands will see levels rise. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that by 2021 there could be half a million more-people living in poverty.

The predicted rise in poverty levels is linked, the IFS research suggests, to government cuts to working age benefits. Those regions where people where low-income families are less reliant on earnings than benefits will see the largest rise in poverty levels.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation is calling on the government to use the autumn budget to end the freeze on income related benefits, uprate the child related elements of Universal Credit and to increase the Local Housing Allowance. They argue the latter two measures would, respectively, lift 100,000 people out of poverty and help 4.5 million people currently struggling to pay their rent.

Speaking to the Independent chief executive Campbell Robb said the projected rise in poverty levels showed that the UKs “proud record of reducing child poverty was at risk of unravelling. “

Opposition politicians have also been critical of government benefits policy, with Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, as quoted on the Welfare Weekly website, saying Universal Credit had caused “terrible hardship” to many people.

Green Party joint leader Jonathan Bartley described it as an “ill-conceived, counterproductive assault on Britain’s most vulnerable people”, adding that the government had shown, “a complete disregard” for the pain it had caused.

In a blog post on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation website head of analysis for the charity Helen Barnard writes that the main drivers of the rise in child poverty are changes to tax credits and the government’s four year long benefits freeze.

In the article, she calls on the chancellor to use the new industrial strategy he is to unveil in his budget this autumn budget to empower local areas to act to drive growth and for spending on technology and infrastructure to be rebalanced to help struggling regions.

She also calls for the troubled universal credit scheme to be reformed, writing that the budget gives the government an opportunity to prove they are truly on the side of people who are struggling.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond will deliver his autumn budget on Wednesday 22nd November.

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