THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN living in households reliant on Universal Credit has increased to 3.9 million, according to new statistics published by the Department for Work and Pensions. The quarterly Universal Credit statistics show that almost two-thirds of these children are primary school age or younger.

With energy bills due to spiral to unaffordable levels in a matter of weeks, Save the Children is calling for immediate action to help those on the lowest incomes who have the most to lose from rising costs.

Becca Lyon, head of child poverty at Save The Children, said: “Behind the figures released today is an individual family, striving to get by in the toughest economic climate for decades. We know life for those supported by Universal Credit can be tough at the best of times but after months of cutting back, parents are now running out of options.

“Debt and poverty now seem like the most likely consequences of these record energy bills for parents on the lowest incomes and we are deeply concerned about the impact this will have on children.

“Universal Credit can be part of the solution however, if the UK government takes a fresh approach. To ensure children are better protected, they should increase the child element of Universal Credit by £10 per child per week and at least double the UK government’s current cost of living support package for those on low incomes from £1200 to £2400 during these unprecedented times.”

In a YouGov and Save the Children poll of 1,000 parents, 90 per cent thought that parents need financial support from the government to help with the costs of raising a child. Thirty two per cent of parents thought this support should be targeted only at low-income parents.

The statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions show that:

  • 3.9 million children in 2.1 million households with children were receiving Universal Credit as of May 2022, compared to 3.8 million children in 2 million households in February of this year.
  • Of children living in households on Universal Credit, 29 per cent were aged 0-4 (1,127,023), and 34 per cent were aged 5-10 (1,334,299), meaning that 63 per cent of children living in households on Universal Credit were primary school age or younger.
  • 71 per cent of families with children on Universal Credit – more than 1.5 million households – are single-parent families.

Energy bills are expected to rise by 82 per cent in October, according to Cornwall Insight, which will have a significant impact on single parents. Average energy costs are expected to be £300 per month from October, while a single mother, aged 25 or over, with one young child receives £579.49 in Universal Credit standard allowance plus the child element. From October, this mother would be paying over half of her allowance on energy bills.

As well as calling for a children’s cost of living package, Save the Children also wants to scrap the unfair benefit cap and reform to the debt deductions system to which those on Universal Credit are tied..

Rebecca, a single mother from Norfolk, has five part-time jobs and supports her income with Universal Credit. She said: “I’m paid on the 28th of each month and by the 7th I’m counting pennies to try work out what to spend on food. One easy way to help me and families like mine is to do away with the taper rate so I can keep the money I work hard to earn whilst getting support from the government. This would mean I’d be less reliant on food banks and less likely to slip into more debt.

“Another easy solution would be to actually sit down and calculate in the real world what a family needs not just to survive but to have a semi decent life whilst they are working their way out of poverty. It is so demoralising, and it negatively effects my mental health in such a profound way to feel like I’m doing everything I can to earn an honest living and provide for my daughter and yet I’m trapped in a system that doesn’t care and keeps me low.

“Hopefully the next prime minister will take a look at the issues facing the most vulnerable and make positive changes as things are only set to get worse.”

* The latest statistics on Universal Credit are available here.

* Source: Save the Children