Children and in-work poverty
The government is consulting on a new child poverty strategy and the TUC has just sent in our response. We have made a number of points, but one of the key ones has been to urge the government not to forget the working poor. Child poverty cannot be ended if policy simply aims to get parents into jobs but doesn’t bother about whether they end up in good jobs.
Official data from the Households Below Average Income statistics show that 59 per cent of poor children live in families where at least one adult is in employment (measured on a before housing costs basis, 61 per cent after housing costs.)
The latest results from the Millennium Cohort Study (which has been tracking what has happened to children born in 2000) show that half the poor children in their study live in families where at least one parent has a job. A paper based on the same source found that when one or more adults in poor workless families got jobs, more than one in six (17.1 per cent) did not escape poverty.
The last Government calculated that over 1 million children could be taken out of poverty by a strategy that aimed at moving more people into jobs, but they also calculated that the target – ending child poverty by 2020 – could not be reached without tackling in-work poverty. Just halving the number of children in in-work poverty would reduce the total by 650,000. Reducing child poverty among working families is only possible with government support – making it possible for working parents to increase their hours and progress into better paid jobs. This means providing significant in-work benefits – especially to cope with costs that wages may not meet, like rent or childcare. It also means giving parents access to training and other opportunities to progress and the ability to increase their hours.
But there is a real risk that we’re about to move backwards, not forwards. We have shown that the Universal Credit will leave working families up to £2,700 a year worse off and, as Nicola has emphasised, there is still no detail on how the new system will deal with childcare costs (but all the indications are that the new system will have less to offer working parents). A couple of days ago Sam Royston, in his guest post, showed how many of the reforms introduced in last year’s Budget and Spending Review reduce incentives to work and leave many low income working households worse off.
Politicians across the spectrum argue that work is the best escape route from poverty. And of course, they are right, but only if parents can escape from badly paid insecure jobs that do not lead to anything better. And that means a commitment to increasing support for them.