New report shows child poverty endemic amongst low paid families

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By a Newsnet reporter

Child poverty charity Save The Children published a report on Wednesday entitled “Child Poverty In 2012: It shouldn’t happen here” which has highlighted some shocking statistics about child poverty in the UK today.  Perhaps the most shocking is the relevation that over half of children living in poverty have at least one parent in paid employment.

By a Newsnet reporter

Child poverty charity Save The Children published a report on Wednesday entitled “Child Poverty In 2012: It shouldn’t happen here” which has highlighted some shocking statistics about child poverty in the UK today.  Perhaps the most shocking is the relevation that over half of children living in poverty have at least one parent in paid employment.

The publication reported the results of two surveys undertaken on behalf of Save The Children between May 2012 and June 2012.  A total of 1,504 children and 5,000 parents throughout the UK took part.  The children were aged between eight and sixteen years old, and were asked to fill out an online survey in a classroom setting.  Half of the surveys were carried out in areas of high deprivation.

Save The Children found that more than half of the children living in poverty, (61%), had at least one parent in employment.  The finding challenges the popular belief that only the unemployed experience poverty in the UK.  The study finds that many families dependent upon a breadwinner on the minimum wage were still struggling with poverty.  The finding means that efforts to boost minimum wage employment may not make much of a dent in poverty statistics.

The study also found that low income parents were twice as likely to split up compared to more affluent parents, which leads to the question of whether poverty causes single parent families rather than the other way round.  Another consequence of poverty among parents is that 1 in 7 lose touch with their friends through money worries.  

Many parents try their utmost to shield their children from the worry associated with low income but the results of the survey showed that, more often than not, they are unsuccessful.  There is a strong awareness among the majority of children living in poverty of the financial stresses which their families face.

Families are increasingly struggling to afford the essentials such as food, heating and clothing.  43% of low income parents have to borrow money or go into debt to pay basic household bills and 25% have had to skip meals so that their children can eat.  One low income parent said:

“I regularly keep the heating off and use blankets and jackets to keep warm so that we have more money towards the food bill… I buy the cheapest brand foods so that I can afford the right amount of fruit and veg for the children.  

“Missing a meal or two a week is not uncommon for me so that my children can eat.  My children never go without but I sometimes have to.”

A less obvious but no less harmful effect of poverty is that children in poverty are less likely to have the things that they need to do well at school and to have the experiences that would give them a happy and fulfilling childhood.  

24% do not have internet access at home which puts them at an educational disadvantage which could impact throughout their lives.  Many don’t have a quiet space in which to do their homework and some don’t get the chance to go on school trips.  1 in 3 never have friends home for tea, 1 in 10 miss out on celebrating their birthday. Increasingly, middle income families are beginning to experience such difficulties.

There are an estimated 3.5 million children in the UK living in poverty, a figure expected to rise to 3.9 million by 2015.  The number of children living in poverty continued to rise throughout Labour’s term in office in Westminster, despite that party’s much advertised commitment to reducing child poverty.

For many work is no longer the route out of poverty it once was. Low wages and cuts in tax credits coupled with high childcare costs and a weak labour market ensure that low income families are stuck in the poverty trap. Increasing reliance on several part-time jobs ensures that low wage earners pay more in national insurance contributions than those in full time employment.  

However with the economic uncertainties caused by the financial crash and the banking crisis, escape routes out of poverty are becoming increasingly difficult to find.  It is essential for the well being of our children and the health of our society that families can find a route out of poverty and deprivation.  

With only limited economic powers at its disposal, and with the tax and benefits system entirely under Westminster control, Scottish families in poverty will remain reliant upon the measures taken by the Conservative dominated UK Government Coalition.

Alison Garnham, CPAG chief executive, said: “The research paints a stark picture of rising costs for bringing up children at a time when the Government is cutting its contribution to children’s costs and wages are stagnating.”

Ms Garnham added: “It’s not just about support through benefits; there are too many families stuck on low pay and low hours, and wages for the poorest have been falling behind for the last three decades.

“We’ve reached a dangerous turning point. Experts like the IFS (Institute of Fiscal Studies) now warn that we’re on the brink of a dramatic rise in child poverty, leaving the Prime Minister in desperate need of a change of strategy to keep his promise to ‘make British poverty history’.”  

The report from the IFS, published last year, warned that the UK Government’s economic policies were exacerbating child poverty.

In a sign of the worsening crisis for the UK’s poorest families, earlier this week the child poverty charity Save the Children launched its first campaign to help children in the UK.

The charity, which until now has worked to relieve child poverty in developing nations, said that children living in poverty in the UK were bearing the greatest burden of the recession.  Save the Children is aiming to raise £500,000 to help its work in the UK, the first time it has appealed to the UK public for funds to help children at home.