Caritas leaders are urgently calling for an end to the two-child limit on benefits after shocking new research shows that over 4 million children are living in poverty.
The number of children in the UK who are experiencing poverty rose to 4.2 million last year-an increase on the 3.6 million recorded the previous year.
Some 71 per cent of them live in households where at least one adult works-a rise of 6 percentage points since last year. The pandemic and cost of living crisis are believed to be the reasons for the “unacceptably high” statistics.
The research was carried out by Loughborough University for the End Child Poverty Coalition. Responding to the figures, CEO of Caritas Shrewsbury Ben Gilchrist called for ‘real policy change’.
“These terrible figures remind us how much more we need to do together to tackle child poverty,” Mr Gilchrist told the Universe.
“Government action is a vital part of this but at present they have no plan to tackle poverty. We need to see real policy change such as ending the two-child limit on benefits. We also urge employers to pay the Real Living Wage.”
The two-child limit on benefits means that families with over two children do not receive state support for any children beyond the second child.
The figures are based on the Department for Work and Pensions Children in low income families: local area statistics which estimates the poverty rate before housing costs. They show a strong correlation between family size and the probability of child poverty after housing costs across the UK, but this is highest in the North West and West Midlands. Across the North West region, more than a third (34.3%) of children are living in poverty.
Patrick O’Dowd, director of Caritas Salford, which supports people from across Greater Manchester and Lancashire, called for an end to the two-child limit on benefits. He said the figures in the North West came as ‘no surprise’, with some families unable to afford shampoo and utility bills.
“Tragically, these appalling figures don’t come as a surprise as our staff and volunteers are seeing first-hand the staggering increases in poverty across the communities we work with,” Mr O’Dowd told the Universe.
“We are seeing a rise in the number of people coming to us to use our showers, for example, as they aren’t able to afford the utility bills to wash at home. Those who can’t afford shampoo for their young children, or those who are going without a meal to enable their youngest family members to eat instead.”
” Immediate action must be taken including changes to policy that supports real families who need help now, for example by ending the two-child limit on benefits.”
In every region of the UK, children from Black or minoritised ethnic communities are more at risk of experiencing poverty than those with white ethnicity-particularly in London, due to its high ethnic diversity.
Joseph Howes, Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition, said that abolishing the two-child limit on benefits ‘would immediately lift 250,000 children out of poverty, and the government could make this change now.’
The Government responded to the figures by saying that it has helped 400,000 out of ‘absolute poverty since 2010’ and launched a ‘£94billion cost of living support package.’ However, Patrick O’Dowd said the Government need to ‘make changes right now’ to end child poverty.
“It’s unacceptable and we need as many people as possible to get behind the campaign to end child poverty, and most importantly for those in local and national government and other key decision makers to do the right thing and make changes right now, before it’s too late for many hard-working parents and their children,” he said.
Ben Gilchrist called on Catholics to support the CSAN network in England and Wales, and to write to MPs to call for change.
Picture: PA Media Picture by: Save the Children