Almost 86,000 children in Northamptonshire are in families that are cutting back on food or heating after a decision not to raise children’s benefits in line with the cost of living.
That is according to the charity End Child Poverty, who say failure to increase Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit -for both in-work and jobless families - in line with the cost of living over the past three years, has caused one in seven families to struggle to provide their children with the basics.
The number of children affected in Northampton alone is 27, 400 with the majority of them in low-income working families.
David Holmes CBE, chair of End Child Poverty said: “It is deeply worrying that parents are having to cut back on food, heating and other essentials that their children need in order to develop and thrive.
“The new Government needs to seize the opportunity in the Queen’s Speech to stop the rise in child poverty. During the election campaign David Cameron promised not to cut Child Benefit, now is the time for him to keep that pledge.
“We think it is vital that child benefits keep pace with the cost of living and that the Government gives them the same protection as the state pension.
“This is an opportunity to be bold and to invest in our children’s future.”
The charity is calling for urgent action to make sure that families – working and non-working – who are struggling to make ends meet can give their children the basics.
They say that guaranteeing that children’s benefits and tax credits are given the same ‘triple lock’ protection that is provided for the basic state pension, so they at least rise in line with inflation, the new Government could significantly reduce child poverty.
How this could be achieved is as follows:
-Under a ‘triple lock’ – which would make sure that these key benefits either rise in line with prices, earnings, or by 2.5 per cent, whichever is the highest – 310,000 fewer children will be living in absolute poverty in the UK by 2020 than under the Government’s current policy.
-End Child Poverty is calling on the Government to phase in this protection during the course of this Parliament.
-As a first step, Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit should rise in line with inflation for at least the next two years. They should then rise in line with average earnings or inflation, whichever is higher.
-And, by 2020, children’s benefits should then also be guaranteed a minimum yearly increase of 2.5 per cent in the same way as the state pension.