Although Britain remains one of the world’s richest countries, there are still a significant number of people living in poverty in the UK. Their household resources are too small to allow them the standard of living that most people in the UK consider acceptable. In the UK, the country is presented with the highest rates in child poverty. By 2022, the Fiscal Studies Institute projects that more than five million children will be living in relative poverty. So, what is poverty in our society? Peter Townsend defined poverty as lacking the resources to meet those basic needs, including social participation, which others take for granted. As well as income, savings and property, a person’s needs can also be met by public services, like education, housing and healthcare.
Research in child poverty in the UK has demonstrated that over 4.1 million of children are living in relative poverty, this means poverty affect more than one in four children in the UK and new figures from resolution foundation indicates that levels of child poverty will increase to 37 percent, topping the previous record of 34 percent recorded in the 90s.
On the other hand, levels of child poverty differ depending on the area you are living within the country, London has proven to have the highest rate of child poverty in the country. There are many people at risk of poverty but people with children face higher risks of poverty due to children’s additional expenses and the effects on working hours of the parent, the benefit of children do not fully compensate. Pensioners are also at risk of poverty and there still remains the huge gap in payment of women, overall the number of low-paid women (3 million) is still much higher than the total number of low-paid men (1.9 million). All of these factors contribute to having people at risk of poverty. Therefore, this can have a negative impact in a child’s life, the effect of children living in poverty, can lead children to isolation, exclusion. It is also known that children in the most deprived areas can be expected to live fewer years of good health with boys of 19 years of “Good health” and girls with 20 years.
The Millennium Cohort Study shows that poor children brought up in poverty are 20 per cent behind other children in their cognitive development when they start primary school and are four times more likely to develop a mental health problem by the age of 11. Children who have lived in persistent poverty during their first seven years have cognitive development.
The chosen organization is CPAG, child poverty action group. The aim of the organization is to help the children that are growing in poverty in the UK. Their main purpose is to understand what causes poverty and the impact that this have on the lives of the one in four children that experiences poverty. The CPAG states “Our vision is of a society free of child poverty, where all children can enjoy a childhood free of financial hardship and have a fair chance in life to reach their full potential. The organization provides information, training and creates awareness of the impact of poverty in children’s lives, it also advises families whom have financial issues to have access to the financial support needed. They also work with people providing them with help to resolve problems with benefits which has meant they have had to turn to emergency food aid, an example of this is that the organizations have set up foodbanks in London which provides support to those in need.
The organizations state that poverty affect a range of people and there is no single form of factor that causes it. But the main causes of poverty specially in children is the rise of the cost of living, lack of available jobs, low wages and insecure employment in many jobs, changing benefit levels, barriers to employment such as childcare. When measuring poverty based on income the poverty line is 60 percent of median income, therefore there are over 14.3 million people living in a household below the poverty line after considering their housing cost. This means one in 5 households within the UK have earnings under the poverty line, after their housing expenses are taken into account. Because poverty is defined ‘relative’ to the median income, poverty levels are affected by the overall distribution of income in society. So, if the income of the rich grows faster than the income of the poor, poverty will increase. (NECPC)
The organization (CPAG) suggests that the Government needs to follow the fundamental principal of the UK welfare state, which states that benefits must reflect need, for example rather than freezing their value until 2021. Annual benefits and tax credit rates, on the other hand, should rise each year in the same way as the UK pensioners. Child benefit should rise by at least 5 pounds per week for each child. Abolitions of the two-child limit on tax credit and universal credit otherwise 200,00 more children will fall into poverty. The administrations of the benefits system must be improved, for example, the waiting period for a first payment of universal credit should be reduced to two weeks. There should be rapid access to hardship payment, benefit advances, and other local welfare assistance should be provided. Housing and childcare remain the most expensive items in the budgets of working families with small children. Childcare costs have risen 42 per cent since 2008, twice the rate of inflation. A new national childcare strategy should include, a high quality, fully funded model of the 30-hour free entitlement to childcare available to all families. We must end the growing impermanence of paid work. The UK has relatively high employment rates, but an unstable labour market, putting UK households at high risk of moving in and out of in-work poverty. Part-time and ‘zero hour’ contracts, temporary jobs and spurious forms of self-employment currently evade employment protection laws and contribute to these risks.
Historically in 1999 Tony Blair prime minister of formal Government Labour developed and announced a target to eradicate child poverty by 2020-2021. By 2010 after the Labour party lost power the target was made law, this was known as the Child Poverty act 2010. The Child poverty Act was a legislation created by the parliament of the United Kingdom that sets out the targets on eradicating child poverty. In the first decade of labour government from 1997 to 2010 their main target was to increase incomes of families with children, introducing the national minimum wage and tax credit which benefited families. They also increased full employment by 80% and increased funding for early year support. They also increased universal pre-k hours, tax incentive to off-set childcare cost, paid leave. Over the period of labour government being in power child poverty in the UK reduced nearly to half against an absolute measure of poverty. When the target become law the UK child poverty act set out 4 targets. The first target was to reduce relative poverty for children how lived in families with an income below the median that is 60%. The second target is to combine material deprivation and low income and reduce it to 5%. The third target, persistent poverty to be reduced to improve the lives of children living in persistent poverty. The final target was to reduce absolute poverty of children to 5%. (HOCL. 2014)
Over the time the political agenda of labour government was passed on to the opposition party when the labour government lost power. In 2007 formal prime minister David Cameron was admen to follow through with the child poverty Act and as a result this act was bind to both current and upcoming government to tackle child poverty.
In 2016 the Welfare Reform and Work Act abolished the Child Poverty Act including all the targets set by the previous government such as reducing poverty and the measures of poverty based on family income and also remove the requirement to publish four income-based measures of child poverty (relative poverty, material deprivation, absolute poverty and persistent poverty). However, after a long time of protests from organizations working towards poverty, the government agreed in the publications on data on the number of children in poverty.
In the Welfare Reform and Work Act the Act seeks to move away from the strategy to tackle poverty set by the previous government and remove all obligations on the local authorities to reduce child poverty. However, it seeks to support in improving education achievement and support “troubled” families. In the same year the government established and introduced the Life Change strategy, this is set out to promote a plan in ‘tackle poverty and the causes of deprivation, including family instability, addiction and debt”.
The key targets set by the new Acts are the abolishment of the child poverty act and its obligations towards the government, reported obligations towards the government includes progress towards full employment and educational attainment of children, The creation of 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. The national child poverty and social mobility commission was renamed the Social Mobility Commission. This meant, that it abolished the role that the commission previously had in monitoring the governments progress in reducing child poverty, the commission focus is on promoting social mobility. The child poverty Act is now known as the Life Change Act 2010.
In terms of Welfare reform and social housing rent the Act provides numerous provisions in relation to the welfare reform and social housing rent reduction but this is likely to have a positive impact on low income families, by decreasing individual house income and reducing the funds available to social housing providers.
The Act introduces a reduction in benefits, which means those who will be entitled to benefits have to have an income that does not exceed £20,000 per couple and for a lone parent, this has to be in a range of £13,400 to claim benefits. In terms of following social security benefits and tax credits this will be frozen for four tax years starting from 2016/17. This means jobseekers allowance, house benefit and universal credit etc will be frozen. This also included changes to the Act, where changes to child tax credit and its replacement, the child element of universal credit were introduced. For children that were born after 8th April 2017, the child element of universal credit will provide for a maximum of two children or qualifying young people for whom a claimant is responsible. The Act amended work-related regulations for claimants under universal credit, increasing the work-focused interview and preparation for work requirements. The Act also introduced a reduction in social housing rents in England of 1% per year over four years from April 2016. (NECPC.2000-2019)
After reviewing all of the material regarding child poverty and the 2 different acts that have been put in place in the UK since 2010, it is evident that the plan to reduce child poverty is still a big challenge and can still be improved. The main legislations putting into action to eradicate poverty was eliminated in 2016, (The child poverty Act 2010) and the new government approach in eradicating poverty has proven to fail massively, the legislation lacks a direct solution to improve child poverty in the UK. The new legislation sets to focus more in child education rather then helping them out of poverty. The legislations remove all obligations from the government and local authorities and entitlement of benefits are no more based on a family’s income. In terms of welfare the legislations suspend and cut benefits. Families must have at least two children to be entitled to decent benefits. Housing benefits, jobseekers’ allowance, universal credit benefit has remained frozen since 2016/17
In conclusion the government’s policies to help eradicate poverty has seen to fail not only more and more children are in poverty but they are relatively poor, and from previous research it doesn’t give the impression that the government wants to take responsibilities in helping correct the situations.