Child poverty in this country is on the rise. Save the Children has just announced its first ever fundraising campaign to help British youngsters in its 93-year history.
I’ve written two articles for the Telegraph on this subject – firstly reporting the findings of a new report from the Child Poverty Action Group, and secondly an article on the worst affected constituencies illustrated with an interactive map made using Google Fusion Tables.
Child poverty: minimum wage ‘does not meet basic costs of raising children’
The cost of raising children is rising faster than the rate of inflation, leaving those earning the minimum wage unable to afford the basic needs of their children, a new report has warned.
Research by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) estimated the costs of providing an acceptable standard of living for a child until the age of 18 to be £143,000.
That figure, which takes into account spend on items such as food, clothing, childcare and toys, rises to more than £155,000 for lone parent families.
The income of a two-child family, in which both parents work full time on the national minimum wage, would cover only 82% of the basic costs of their children, the report warns. A lone parent on minimum wage, plus relevant benefits, could cover 89% of these costs.
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.”
It comes as Save the Children, the charity which has traditionally focused on Africa, launches a fundraising campaign for the first time to support families going without food or adequate winter clothing in Britain. It said Government cuts were harming the poorest.
The CPAG study found that childcare is one of the main factors responsible for the steep rise in costs, adding as much as £60,000 onto the total cost of childhood. State support for childcare, in the form of tax credits, have also be cut by 12.5%.
Without childcare, the minimum needs of a child are estimated to cost just under £80,000.
The universal child benefit, frozen since 2010, is due to be withdrawn from families where one adult earns more than £50,000 from 2013. Those who continue to receive the benefit will find that it has lost 10% of its value by 2014.
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’.”
She refers to a report by the IFS published last year, which forecast a decade of rising poverty following tax and benefit changes enacted by the Coalition.
It predicted absolute and relative child poverty to reach 23% and 24% by 2020-21, far higher than the government targets of 5% and 10% set out in the Child Poverty Act (2010).
In July the former Labour health secretary Alan Milburn, who now advises ministers on social mobility and improving youngsters’ life chances, warned that there the government had a ”snowball’s chance in hell” of hitting the targets.
2.8m children are thought to live in relative poverty (with a household income of less than 60% of the median) in this country.
Chris Goulden, head of the poverty group at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which funded the study, added: “Parents… were clear that not being able to afford to take part in school activities, go to birthday parties or have a modest annual family holiday will have serious consequences for the development of their children.
“A priority should be addressing the declining living standards of people on low incomes.”
The CPAG’s report follows yesterday’s announcement by Save the Children that it is launching a fundraising campaign to help British youngsters for the first time in its 93-year history after reports that children were missing out on hot meals and suitable warm coats and shoes.
To coincide with the launch, the charity published the results of a survey of 1,500 children and 5,000 parents in the lowest income groups, which claimed that one in eight of the poorest children go without at least one hot meal a day.
One in seven go without a warm winter coat and new shoes when they need them and almost a fifth miss out on school trips because their parents have not got the money, it added.
One in 10 of the poorest parents said they have cut back on food themselves due to the pressure of providing for their families.
The full report, ‘The cost of a child in the twenty-first century’, can be found on the Child Poverty Action Group website.