Child poverty increases across UK, with number of struggling families set to soar amid Coronavirus crisis
Children and parents | Credit: PA Images
The number of children in poverty increased in 2018-2019, according to data released by the Department for Work and Pensions. These figures could spike further unless the government does more to help families affected by the coronavirus crisis, Save the Children warns.
Data released today shows that child poverty increased last year by 100,000 children, with 4.2 million children now living in relative poverty after housing costs, up from 4.1 million last year. That's almost a third (30%) of children in the UK. The numbers of children in absolute poverty stayed the same, at 3.7 million.
Save the Children are warning that the Coronavirus crisis will worsen the situation for many families, and push many more over the poverty line. Despite government measures to protect jobs, many people still face losing their jobs or will see significant drop in income as a result of the Coronavirus crisis, with the number of families - particularly the self-employed - claiming welfare support through Universal Credit expected to surge.
Half a million new claims for Universal Credit are already reported to have been processed by the Department for Work and pensions in the past nine days. However, anyone making a claim under Universal Credit must wait five weeks for their first payment – leaving many families with little or no income while they wait.
Families can get help in the form of a loan, but this is then taken off future benefits payments for the following year, leaving families struggling to cover their monthly costs while they pay back the debt.
Families interviewed by Save the Children said the five-week wait for their first payment had left them struggling, forcing them to borrow on credit cards, cut back on food and other essentials or even resort to food banks to feed their children.
Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty at Save the Children, said:
“Even before coronavirus, our country’s safety net was failing too many children. Now there’s a danger that even more children will fall through the net. The government has already done a great deal to help families affected by the Coronavirus crisis, but there is still more to be done.
“Families are already struggling and the five-week wait for Universal Credit payments will push them to the brink. It's not right that families will worry about falling into debt during this difficult time. The government can help by giving them grants rather than loans, so that parents aren’t left without the money they need to heat their homes, and feed themselves and their children. If we don’t act now, we risk even more families being locked in poverty.”