Benefits changes will push too many children into poverty, Commissioners say

15 November 2017

Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland Bruce Adamson – together with the other three UK Children’s Commissioners – has today called on the Chancellor to reverse changes to the benefits system.

Highlighting the projected rise in UK child poverty, mostly due to benefit changes, the four Commissioners have written to Philip Hammond MP calling on him to take action. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecast that absolute and relative child poverty will rise by 4 and 7 percentage points respectively by 2021-22.

Read our letter to the Chancellor.

Three calls to the Chancellor

The UK Children’s Commissioners make three specific calls around the current benefits framework and implementation plans that are predicted by the IFS to negatively affect children more than any other group. They include:

An urgent review of the freeze on benefits, with a particular focus on the impact on families with children

This month’s report by the IFS forecasts a rise of 4% in absolute child poverty – after the deduction from income of housing costs – by 2021-22.

Three-quarters of this projected rise will be caused by benefit changes, affecting 400,000 UK children.

Relative poverty rates for children are forecast to rise by seven percentage points by 2021-22.

The rise in child poverty will hit more working than non-working households and will be felt in each UK nation.

The UK Government should reconsider the decision to restrict entitlements to Universal Credit to only two children per family

A significant factor in the projected rise in child poverty is the restriction of benefits to only two children.

It is the Commissioners’ view that this measure constitutes a breach of children’s right to an adequate standard of living under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. 

Giving all children, no matter their family circumstances, the same entitlements to state support would be a significant step in protecting our most vulnerable children and reducing the projected impact on child poverty.

An immediate pause in the rollout of Universal Credit to families with children, pending a review of the impact of the six-week gap in income when transitioning to Universal Credit

The piloting of Universal Credit in some areas has provided the opportunity to assess the potential impact of its implementation on individuals’ lives.

It has become clear that the absence of income for a number of weeks while Universal Credit payments are authorised and implemented presents an almost impossible challenge to the ability of families to provide basics – such as food and heating – to themselves and their children.

Amelioration measures must be put in place before there is further roll out of Universal Credit.

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.
“The impact of benefit changes is going to negatively affect children more than any other group. Recently, my office met with young parents, for whom the restriction to entitlements in Universal Credit was having a direct impact on their ability to return 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 make investments in the budget that would make a proven difference to children and young people, including investment in early intervention and preventative services, children’s mental health services and education, with subsequent consequential funding for the devolved nations.”