Benefit changes mean almost one in three children in UK will live in poverty by 2020

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   By a Newsnet reporter

A report published this week by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has shown that as a result of the UK government’s changes to the benefit system almost one in three children in the UK will be living in poverty by 2020.

The report shows that after taking housing costs into account, the percentage of Scots children living in poverty will rise from 2011’s figure of 21.4% to a projected 28.4% by 2020, while in England and Wales 33.3% of children will live in relative poverty.

Carried out for the Northern Irish government, the report describes the situation for the UK as a whole, and puts the blame for the rise on child poverty squarely on the policies of the UK Coalition Government.  The report warns that the “tax and benefit reforms introduced since April 2010 can account for almost all of the increases in child poverty projected over the next few years”.

Due to the different policies of the Scottish Government, the report finds that the situation in Scotland is slightly better than that for the UK as a whole, however Scots children cannot be protected completely from the effects of UK wide changes to the tax and benefits system, which are determined by Westminster.  The anti-independence parties have refused to consider allowing the devolution of benefits policy to Holyrood as part of any enhance devolution package, despite opinion polls showing that an absolute majority of Scots voters want the Scottish Parliament to have full control of taxation and welfare.

The report forecasts that whereas 28.4% of children in Scotland will be living in poverty by 2020, after housing costs are taken into account, in England and Wales one third of children, 33.3%, will be in the same situation.

The UK Government has pledged to eradicate child poverty by 2020, today’s report shows that the target will not be met, and in fact child poverty can be expected to worsen.  Currently 3.7 million children in the UK are living in poverty, this number will increase by one million to 4.7 million by 2020.

Neil Mathers, head of Save the Children in Scotland, said:

“If the number of children living in poverty rises by this amount then Scotland will fall headfirst into a child poverty crisis. The impact that this would have on an entire generation of children could be devastating, both in terms of their immediate well-being and their longer-term lack of opportunities.

“It will mean greater pressure on public services and will have a damaging effect on our society and economy, as well as on the children and families themselves.

“Strong leadership from the Scottish Government is vital and the delivery of the child poverty strategy has never been more critical. These figures send a stark warning to our country but it’s not too late to turn things around.

“Providing routes out of poverty for parents, such as increasing access to affordable childcare, will help to remove barriers for parents to get back to work and providing good-quality employment to make work pay will help families secure a decent standard of living.”

Responding to the report, John Wilson, SNP MSP for Central Scotland, called on the UK Government to rethink its economic policies and said:

“The report from the IFS clearly shows that despite all the assurances from the UK Coalition Government, that they are not only failing to achieve the child poverty targets, the policies being pursued are causing a dramatic increase in child poverty. It is time that the UK government faced up to the reality that the austerity measures are hitting those in most need of financial support, particularly at a time of recession and economic policy failure.”