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Two million children could be trapped in poverty

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Nearly two million children could be trapped in poverty as their parents face at least one major barrier to “working themselves out of hardship”, a charity suggests.

The Prime Minister has commented that the best way to ensure children do not grow up in poverty “is to ensure they do not grow up in a workless household”.

However, analysis by Action for Children revealed this to be a myth, stating that “work is often not a route out of hardship”, as 440,000 children are in poverty despite their parents or a single parent working full-time.

This includes 266,000 children in a couple-parent family where both parents are working full-time.

The other barriers to work it identified include an extra 641,000 children in poverty where at least one parent is disabled, while 232,000 children are in poverty where at least one child is disabled.

Action for Children also highlighted that half a million children are in poverty where there is at least one child under the age of two, while 137,000 children in single-parent families in poverty consist of a parent already working part-time with a child aged between three and 10.

The charity also found that many of the children in poverty live in families that experience more than one barrier to work, meaning they are even less likely to be able to improve their situation by taking on work.

It said 1.36 million children in poor families were found to have one barrier to work, 495,000 children were in families with two barriers, while up to 95,000 face three barriers to work as a route out of poverty, such as having long-term sickness or disability, or caring responsibilities.

Calls to Government as cost-of-living crisis intensifies

With the cost-of-living crisis expected to impact child poverty numbers, the charity is calling on the Government to raise the Child Element of Universal Credit by at least £15 a week and abolishing the Benefit Cap to lift nearly 320,000 children out of poverty.

Further, it wants to see the Benefit Cap removed to help boost the incomes of those still left in poverty “so their experience of it is less severe”.

It claimed both reforms together would cost the Government an estimated £4bn a year.

The charity is also calling for benefit levels to keep pace with prices and living standards and wants to see an independent review of the childcare system and how it is funded. It also wants to see changes to the childcare support available to families through Universal Credit to help parents to return to work.

‘Confront the work myth’

Director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, said: “To improve the lives and life chances of all children we need to be honest about why so many are growing up in poverty and hardship. And we must confront the myth that everyone in poverty can simply work their way out of it.

“Our findings show that when it comes to supporting families in financial distress, work is simply not the silver bullet it is often presented as. We need more realism and less rhetoric from government in how we talk about the relationship between poverty and work. And we need a social safety net that ensures families can meet their essential costs and restores the link between a family’s needs and the support that is available to them.”