Rising inflation will combine with crippling benefits cuts to push more children into poverty—unless the Chancellor acts in his autumn budgetby Alison Garnham / August 21, 2017 / Leave a comment
In normal times, inflation holding steady goes a long way to protecting the living standards of ordinary families. But these are not normal times.
For the first time in the post-war period, the rising cost of essentials has not been accompanied by any increase in state support given to families with children. Between 2012 and 2019 benefits will have risen by only 3 per cent, while prices are projected to rise by 12 per cent.
New research for Child Poverty Action Group, “Cost of a Child in 2017” by Professor Donald Hirsch, looks at whether families can afford to bring up children to a minimum standard of living. It suggests there will be more pain and poverty for “just managing” (and “not managing”) families.
The analysis draws on what the public says every child requires for their basic needs to be met, and then conservatively costs each of these items to reveal the income needed to cope with the basic costs of raising a child. It is an incredibly detailed process. Focus groups tell us, for example, that every primary school child should really have two bath towels (£9 each from Tesco) and that every secondary school age child should have at least three pairs of non-uniform trousers (three pairs of £10 jeans, Tesco).
Using this process, the report calculates that at the moment a basic, no-frills childhood to the age of 18 costs £75,436 (£155,142 if we include housing and childcare costs) for a couple family.
An out of work family with two children, aged three and seven, receives benefits that cover only 58 per cent of the income needed to provide a minimum standard of living. So much for the safety net.
“A basic, no-frills childhood to the age of 18 costs £75,436, or £155,142 if we include housing and childcare costs”
The shortfall is also there when we look at working families. A family of four, with both parents working full time on the minimum wage has only 87 per cent—£59 a week short—of the income required to meet the basic needs the public says all children should have. In other words, families doing everything ministers ask of them, working every hour they can, even if it is on low pay, are finding they can’t afford the basics in life. Particularly troubling for a government which in the absence of a broad child poverty strategy simply proclaims that “work is the best route out of poverty.”