NEW ANNUAL POVERTY STATISTICS show an estimated 400,000 children were pulled out of poverty across the UK last year when universal credit (UC) was increased by £20 per week. 

But the UK Government’s decision to cut UC last October will have pushed those children back into poverty. On top of the Chancellor’s failure to bring benefits in line with inflation from April, families in poverty will suffer even more as costs soar.

The statistics released by the Department for Work and Pensions, Households Below Average Income, covering April 2020- April 2021 when the £20 uplift was in place show:

  • An estimated 400,000 children were lifted out of relative poverty (after housing costs). That meant 3.9 million children (27 per cent of all UK children) were in poverty.
  • At 3.9 million, the number of children in poverty in 2020/21 was still 300,000 higher than in 2010-11 (when it was 3.6 million).
  • 22 per cent of children (900,000) living in poverty were in a household classified as food insecure

Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says the new figures demonstrate that investing in social security is the most efficient way to reduce child poverty and support struggling households. But without the extra £20 per week on universal credit and with only a 3.1 per cent uprating of benefits planned when inflation is eight per cent (a real-terms income cut of £663 per year for universal credit claimants) the gap between what struggling families need and the support they receive has grown too wide.

|The Chief Executive of CPAG, Alison Garnham, said: “Today’s figures show that government has the power to protect children from poverty. But in a week when the chancellor made clear he was comfortable with his choices and the prime minister claimed child poverty had been left out of his plan for the country ‘by accident’, it looks like Ministers have turned their backs on low-income families.

Many of the children who were lifted out of poverty by the £20 increase to universal credit have already been forced back over the brink by the government’s actions.  And as millions struggle with spiralling costs, we know the picture will worsen. Government must step in to support hard-pressed families by increasing benefits by eight per cent to match inflation.”

CPAG says these latest statistics released by DWP are less reliable than usual because of data collection issues during the pandemic, and should be treated with a high level of caution. However, the fall in child poverty reported in this year’s release aligns with independent forecasts.

Also commenting on the new statistics, Mark Russell, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society, said: “It’s a stain on our nation that nearly a third of children, around 3.9 million, were living in poverty last year.

“The looming cost of living crisis will undoubtedly make matters worse as more desperate families struggle to make ends meet. Some will face impossible choices between heating and eating. Compared to the overall population, children remain more likely to be in low-income households.

“This is unacceptable. The Spring Statement did not go far enough to help families facing the frightening prospect of rising prices and higher bills. The Government must provide more targeted and extensive help as a matter of urgency.

“Growing up in poverty damages children’s physical and mental health and harms their education and life chances. We urge the Government to commit to tackling child poverty as a top priority and to come up with a coherent long-term strategy to turn this shameful situation around.”

* Read Households below average income: an analysis of the income distribution FYE 1995 to FYE 2021 here.

* Sources: Child Poverty Action Group and The Children’s Society