Children and families ‘have been forgotten in crisis response’
An urgent cash boost to struggling families is vital to improve the lives of millions of children as the pandemic continues, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and Trades Union Congress (TUC).
The two organisations have jointly looked at the response to the coronavirus pandemic and says cash is needed for up to 700,000 people living below the poverty line.
The two organisations say strengthening the social security system, by doubling child benefit payments or by raising universal credit and tax credits for children, would make a life-changing difference to many of the poorest families.
The TUC and IPPR are also calling on the government to invest in childcare, to ensure that parents across the country can continue to get to work.
They said that as well as improving outcomes for children, a “family stimulus” package would help to boost the economy through higher household spending.
The IPPR and the TUC say this should be in addition to improvements to the government’s new Job Support Scheme and training schemes for workers who lose their jobs.
They are also calling for an end to the benefit cap and the two-child limit on benefit payments.
The paper examines options for getting more cash into families’ pockets in the face of the expected doubling of unemployment from its pre-Covid levels to 9.1% next year, meaning millions more people likely to be out of work.
It argues for improving the social security system, pointing out that a family where the single earner falls out of work can expect to lose about half of their income.
At a minimum, the report says, the government should maintain the emergency £20 increase to Universal Credit and tax credits made at the beginning of the pandemic. This is currently due to expire in April next year.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: “The Jobs Support Scheme will help protect jobs and businesses. But under the scheme workers will still lose out on up to a third of their usual pay. So we need additional protection for children and families as part of the government’s wider package of support.
“When a childcare provider goes out of business, the knock-on effects a dreadful for working parents, employers and the economy. Without childcare, many parents would have to reduce their hours, or may not be able to work at all. And that will hold back our economic recovery.
“It’s more often mums than dads who do the larger share of childcare. So the impact is likely to be much worse for women workers. It could reverse years of progress on employment equality. “
Carys Roberts, executive director of the IPPR, said: “Marcus Rashford’s campaign for free school meals has shone a light on the difficulties faced by so many families across the UK to put nutritious food on the table this winter.
“But it shouldn’t fall to a footballer and restaurants already struggling with a pandemic to patch up our broken safety net. That’s why IPPR and the TUC are calling today to put cash in families’ pockets, helping families across the country who are in dire financial straits. Doing so would also give a much-needed boost to the economy, preventing even more jobs being lost.”