TORY policies have created an “austerity generation” which will force one million more children into poverty, a report says today.
Anti-poverty campaigners warned of a “colossal failure” of government policy as a “straightforward and shaming” report revealed that the government’s flagship universal credit reforms would leave the most vulnerable worse off.
Research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warn that the long-term effects of government austerity will be felt for years to come.
It said that promises of greater rewards from work have been “broken” with analysis showing that working families are set to lose as much as £1,658 a year in benefits as a result of cuts to universal credit pushing an additional one million children into poverty.
They urged Chancellor Phillip Hammond to reverse the damaging cuts in this month’s Budget, with lone parents and those with a disability set to be hit hardest by the changes.
According to the report, a full-time working couple on the national living wage would have to work 17 extra days a year to make up losses caused by cuts in work allowances.
A lone parent with a two and a five-year-old, working 16 hours a week for the national living wage and renting in an “average cost” area, would be £1,658 worse off in 2020 than if government had retained the policy as originally legislated.
CPAG chief executive Alison Garnham said: “Since 2010, rather than investing in our children, government policy has been creating an austerity generation whose childhoods and life chances will be scarred by a decade of political decisions to stop protecting their living standards.
“The promise of increased rewards from work made to families with children under the new universal credit benefit has been broken.” She said that despite increases in the minimum wage and other allowances, working families would be the biggest losers from benefit cuts.
“Cuts to universal credit have substantially reduced the rewards from work for many families.
“If the government’s flagship anti-poverty measure ends up rolling out poverty then it’s hard not to see that as a colossal failure of public policy.”
IPPR spokeswoman Carys Roberts said the universal credit scheme originally had the potential to reduce child poverty, but with government cuts over the years the changes could drive an additional one million children into poverty.
“In this month’s Budget, the Chancellor must reinstate the original purpose of universal credit by reversing the cuts that have been made over the past three years.”
However, a Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman claimed that the Tories were committed to supporting families and “there are now 200,000 fewer children living in poverty than in 2010.”
She said: “This report assumes that people won’t take any steps to improve their lives, which we know is untrue. Unlike the old system, universal credit rewards those working more hours.”
But People’s Assembly national secretary Sam Fairbairn described the report as a “hammer blow” after seven years of Tory austerity.
He told the Star: “The fact that they are pushing millions of children into poverty exposes the bankruptcy of their failed policies.
“They always find money to give tax breaks to the rich and wealthy but not enough for people to feed their families.
“It is obscene to think that children will be forced to go hungry in one of the world’s richest economies.”
But he said that the Tories are on the edge and the universal credit fiasco could be “the perfect storm” for them.
“We have to get rid of them now. We cannot afford the Tories,” he said.