From the TUC

Six reasons why parents need more help with the cost of a child

18 Sep 2012, by Guest in Society & Welfare

BBC Newsnight may have confused a few people by labeling it a ‘cost of living reshuffle’ but you only have to glance at the fringe listings for the coming party conferences (Lib Dem, Labour and Conservative) to see just how seriously the political parties and campaigners are looking at what they can do to help hard pressed families struggling with rising living costs.

New research, ‘The Cost of a Child in the Twenty-First Century’ by Child Poverty Action Group and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation throws some more light on the challenges facing families (and, in turn, policymakers looking to help families).

The research arose from a desire to show how much it costs to raise a child, based on what parents themselves agree to be an acceptable minimum standard of living in the UK today. Its key findings are:

1) It costs £143,000 in total to raise a child from 0-18.

This staggering figure represents the cost of just meeting children’s minimum needs and includes childcare costs and housing.

2) The basic cost of raising children has risen faster than inflation.

The inflation-busting cost of a child means that with wages falling behind and benefits being cut, Britain is moving backwards in terms of the prosperity of our children.

3) Childcare can add as much as £60,000 to the total cost of childhood. Childcare is one of the factors most responsible for the rising cost of raising a child. Since 2008 child care costs have has risen by 30 per cent outside London and 50 per cent inside London compared with 14 per cent CPI inflation.

4) A full-time job on National Minimum wage is not enough to meet minimum costs of children.

For single parent families NMW leaves them with only 89% of the basic requirement and for couple families this is reduced to just 82%.

5) State support fails to ensure basic physical needs are met

This leave many families lacking sufficient funds for a healthy diet for the whole family and living in unhealthy housing conditions with problems like overcrowding and damp. The maximum support available only meets between 73 per cent and 94 per cent (depending on family composition) of basic costs for children.

6) Child Benefit meets only 20% of childhood costs on average for couple families and just 18% for single parent families.

Child Benefit has been frozen since 2010 and will have lost 10% of its value by 2014. Since the war, universal support with the cost of a child, first through family allowances and then Child Benefit, has been our national public commitment to all children. This universal arrangement will come to an end next year.

The report also produced a scorecard (see below) to illustrate the costs and the extent to which families are helped with them by the government.

Raising children is a national responsibility – it’s morally right and economically sensible that all children have decent childhoods and fair life chances – so helping parents with the cost of children should be a national responsibility, too.

Yet, for all the current concern with the rising cost of living and the evidence of the harm child poverty does to the UK economy, the main political parties, right now at least, appear to be offering very little to hard pressed families and are missing a big opportunity to show the relevance of politics to the daily lives of ordinary people.

Scorecard: Cost of a Child in 2012

A. How much extra a child adds to family costs, and how much benefits contribute to this
Minimum additional cost of a child (averaged for first and second child) Couple Lone parent
1. Basic cost* over 18 years 0 £79,742 0 £88,330
2. Cost over 18 years, including childcare £142,680 £155,015
3. Percentage of basic cost covered by child benefit 20% 18%
4. Percentage of basic cost covered by child benefit 87% 78%
plus maximum child tax credit

B. The extent to which families have enough to cover the minimum cost of living
Net income* as a percentage of min family costs Couple Lone parent (family with two children aged 3 and 7)
5. Not working 60% 63%
6. Working full time on the national minimum wage 82% 89%
7. Working full time on the median wage 109 93%
* Net of rent, childcare and council tax

GUEST POST: Emily Cousens is a member of Child Poverty Action Group’s (CPAG) policy and advocacy team and also volunteers for Hackney Pirates, a Hackney education project.