A record five million children in the UK could be trapped in poverty by 2020, according to new research by Save the Children.
The new report, A Fair Start for Every Child, reveals that children have paid the highest price in the recession, with families having been hit by a triple whammy of years of flat wages, cuts to benefits and the rising cost of living. They have been squeezed by food prices rising by 19% more than the general price level of other goods between 2007 and 2011. Childcare costs have also soared with a nursery place for a child under two rising by 77% between 2003 and 2013.
Despite a cross party commitment to end child poverty by 2020, new projections show that the numbers living in poverty could increase by 1.4 million in the same period, a rise of 41% on the 3.5 million children currently living in poverty.
Justin Forsyth, Save the Children’s CEO said: “We’re increasingly worried that unless there is a dramatic change of course we’re at risk of writing off the future of millions of British children, giving them an unfair start in life.
This isn’t just a question of statistics; we see families through our programmes around the UK who are really struggling . Millions of children in the UK are being left behind – sentenced to a lifetime of poverty. Far too many of our children are living in cold and damp homes, without healthy food, with parents who can see no end to their situation. If we ignore the rising toll of poverty we are blighting the future of a further 1.4million children. In one of the world’s richest countries there is simply no excuse.”
Save the Children’s new estimate is based on work by Landman Economics adding projected future social security cuts, as committed to by all three major parties, to existing Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates.
Save the Children is warning that the ‘Child Poverty Act’ which enshrined in law the commitment to eradicate child poverty in the UK – and is supported by all parties – is increasingly ‘window dressing’ with no party setting out a viable strategy to achieve it.
Justin Forsyth said: “The current all-party commitments to social security cuts in the next Parliament combined with underlying labour market trends and inflation mean no party has a coherent plan to avoid this crisis. Our political class is sleepwalking towards the highest levels of child poverty since records began while promising to eradicate it completely.
It’s time our politicians face the scale of the crisis head on and each party set out a concrete plan to get us back on track ahead of the general election.”
Save the Children is calling for:
– Every child to have access to high-quality and affordable childcare
– A minimum income guarantee for the families of children under 5
– A national mission for all children to be reading well by 11
The report shows that while child poverty levels fell between 1998 and 2004 they stalled thereafter – even before the financial crisis. It also sets out that two thirds of children in poverty now live in working households, a rise of 20% since 2003, with the UK now having one of the highest rates of low pay in the developed world.