Charities ask Government to increase Child Benefit

An alliance of more than 25 charities has asked the Government to increase Child Benefit as part of a package of measures to help low income families hit by the Coronavirus emergency. So many have lost their jobs, or don’t qualify for the new Government financial aid measures, the lowest paid are the most vulnerable to the economic fallout from the Coronavirus. London has a child poverty rate of 37 per cent – the highest in the country.

The London Child Poverty Alliance, supported by Brentford & Isleworth MP Ruth Cadbury, is seeking  “emergency support” for low income families through adjustments to benefit entitlements, by covering more housing costs, making temporary changes to Universal Credit arrangements and enhancing the ability of local authorities to give help.

Among the package of measures is an increase in Child Benefit by £10 a week per child for the duration of the pandemic. Deborah Hargreaves, chair of the LCPA, said:

“We need to put children at the centre of our response. As a nation, we are being asked to make huge sacrifices to protect the vulnerable and help the NHS. We want to ensure that children do not suffer as well, as a result of more working families being pushed into poverty.”

Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group told the Guardian newspaper:

‘Increases in universal credit and working tax credit to help families face the economic impacts of the coronavirus are welcome, but they don’t go far enough. An increase in child benefit of £10 a week per child would do much more, reducing child poverty by five percentage points compared to less than two percentage points as a result of the increases in universal credit and working tax credit.

‘What we learned between 1999 (when Tony Blair announced his ambition to end child poverty) and 2010 is that if you throw parents a lifeline, they will pull themselves free of poverty. That lifeline is desperately needed now. By 2010, the UK was halfway to achieving its target of cutting child poverty to 10% in 20 years. But 10 years of austerity has resulted in a £40bn annual reduction in spending on social security. We have more food banks in the UK than we have branches of McDonald’s and homelessness is rising. Furloughing will not help people who have lost a job due to school closures or who have simply got sacked.

‘Without immediate action, we will shortly exceed the poverty levels seen back in 1997 when child poverty was at 34% (4.3 million children). This ought to be the best country in the world to grow up in, but we cannot begin to claim that while so many children’s lives are blighted by poverty’.