Chancellor must urgently rethink UK approach to welfare, UK’s four children’s commissioners warn

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 15 November 2017 in News

With the Institute for Fiscal Studies projecting a rise in child poverty, the children’s commissioners for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland came together to issue a joint warning to Philip Hammond on welfare policy

Image credit: Holyrood

The Chancellor must urgently rethink the UK Government’s approach to welfare or risk pushing more children into poverty, the UK’s four children’s commissioners have warned.

With the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) projecting that absolute child poverty will rise by 2021-22, the children’s commissioners for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland came together to issue a joint warning to Philip Hammond on welfare policy.

The commissioners called for an urgent review of the benefits freeze after IFS analysis suggested absolute child poverty is projected to rise by four percentage points and relative child poverty by seven percentage points by 2021. The IFS said that three-quarters of the rise in child poverty can be attributed to welfare reform.


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The four commissioners also urged the UK Government to reconsider its decision to restrict entitlements to Universal Credit to two children per family, warning the policy constitutes a breach of children’s rights to an adequate standard of living under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.

Meanwhile, they also demanded an immediate pause in the roll out of Universal Credit to families with children, pending a review of the impact of the six-week gap in income when transitioning to the new system.

Scotland’s Children and Young People’s Commissioner Bruce Adamson said: “Children have the right to benefit from social security. This right is of central importance in guaranteeing their human dignity. It supports access to other rights such as the right to an adequate standard of living, to health, education, and it prevents social exclusion.

“Benefit changes will affect children more than any other group. Recently, we met with young parents, who told us that changes in Universal Credit were preventing them from returning to study or to work. They talked about this change being a barrier to them improving their families’ lives and for some it was pushing them further into poverty.

 “Along with the Children’s Commissioners of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, I call on the Chancellor to invest in early intervention and preventative services, children’s mental health services and education, with subsequent consequential funding for the devolved nations.”

The commissioners said the six week gap income for people transitioning to Universal Credit presented an “almost impossible” challenge to the ability of families to provide basics such as food and heating to themselves and their children. They said amelioration measures must be put in place before there is further roll out of Universal Credit.

The Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Bill, which is currently passing through parliament, will set a statutory target to have less than five per cent of children living in households that are in absolute poverty by 2030.

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