Poverty and homelessness figures show how children are being let down

The End Child Poverty Coalition reveals in a report today that in some parts of the country, more than half our children are living in poverty. What a way to treat the next generation!

Lib Dem Education Spokesperson Layla Moran said:

This is an appalling indictment of a Tory Party that are failing to protect the most vulnerable in society.

The gulf between children born in the richest and poorest families is widening, but Theresa May is more preoccupied with the gulf in her cabinet over Brexit.

When we fail our children like this we fail as a society. The government must take action.

Cuts to social security, benefits for people in and out of work and low pay push more and more families into poverty. The roll-out of Universal Credit sees the poorest families lose over a four-figure sum every year. And let’s not forget the benefits freeze – effectively cutting benefits as prices increase. The Benefit Cap was a bad enough idea when it was introduced under the Coalition but the minute we were off the scene the Tories cut it even further. And what is even more terrible about that is that it’s applied directly to the housing cost so that people fall into rent arrears and face eviction and homelessness.

That would explain why figures in Scotland showed that 10% more children were in temporary accommodation last year than the year before. It is absolutely heartbreaking to think of those young lives in turmoil.

Imagine being 8 and being made homeless and having to stay in temporary accommodation, maybe a Bed and Breakfast, with lots of strangers around, with your entire family in one room which is unlikely to be in great shape. 

Imagine how you’d feel being moved at a moment’s notice to another temporary room and again and again with little prospect of a permanent home for months or even years. What’s that going to do to your life chances? To your sense of security? To your education? Somewhere safe to live should be a right.

We need to show how seriously angry we are about this and how much we care. We have policies to increase social housing, to increase benefits, to increase childcare, to tackle in-work poverty, to ensure that people are paid the minimum wage. We want to end the exploitation of young people who are often forced in retail and hospitality to work “trial shifts” without being paid. But lists of things that would make things better aren’t going to change minds. People need to see that a liberal society is one were poverty and inequality simply are not tolerated. That bar in our constitution – that no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity, is a high one, but it is one that drives us to change the world.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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12 Comments

  • Jayne mansfield 24th Jan '18 - 9:19am

    I am impressed by Layla Moran. It is a pity that she did not become an MP earlier.

    However, I am more motivated by anger than a concern to show my ability to care. Hand wringing helps no one. Would that more people shared my fury.

    Th situation that Layla describes did not simply arise after 2015. And it my anger and desire to change matters for those in the predicament that Layla mentions that has pushed me into a different party led by someone who might, just might, actually do something about it.

  • Jane Mansfield..Hear, hear…

    As for, “The Benefit Cap was a bad enough idea when it was introduced under the Coalition but the minute we were off the scene the Tories cut it even further.”…

    A poor excuse along the lines of, “Not my fault”.”Me and my mate started to demolish the building and when I went home he carried on”

  • Jayne says it all for me, and yes I too am impressed with Layla. But…..

    I witnessed in detail what happened after 2010 when I was a Liberal Democrat Cabinet Member for Social Work – and more recently as Chair of a Food Bank and a member of the Child Poverty Action group..

    I’m glad Layla spoke up, but I’m very sorry Caron, it will take many many years, if ever, to regain credibility after the docile walking through the lobbies supporting legislation responsible for much of this between 2010-15.

    Which is why I will continue to say that Vince needs to clear the decks with a Mea Culpa statement saying, “Sorry, We got it wrong. We regret it”.

  • The increase in child poverty is a tragedy, but what compounds it is the acquiescence of most (not all) of the Parliamentary party during the Coalition era. Yes, worse things were delayed, but what is most damaging was failure to challenge the Tory narrative on Welfare – George Osborne’s accusation that welfare recipients were “sleeping in behind closed blinds”, Duncan-Smith’s belief that people were only poor because they had made the wrong “lifestyle choices”, etc. etc. The Tories were able to weaponise Social Security and to then take the credit for getting “tough”, without any meaningful Lib Dem restraint. Never again. Our constitutional commitment to ensure that “no-one should be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”, should make this a red line issue.

  • I have this memory that during the Coalition years our MPs persuaded Conference to vote down the idea of taking Council debt out of the national figures for Government debt. The reason it was being proposed was so Councils could borrow to build new Council houses.

    “People need to see that a liberal society is one were poverty and inequality simply are not tolerated.”

    People will only see we are serious about ending poverty if we had a commitment to guarantee that no one has an income lower than the Joseph Rowntree Foundation definition of UK poverty – excluding housing costs (2016 figures) a single person £144 a week, a couple £248, a single person with two children £297 and a couple with two children £401 (download their full report at https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2017). We could have a policy to increase child benefit to £85 a week per child; we could have a policy of giving every working age adult a Basic Citizens Income of £72 a week while keeping the existing benefit system. We could have a policy of abolishing Universal Credit and moving the tapper system to existing benefits and increasing the amount a person can keep before they lose any benefit. We could have a policy of abolishing the Benefit Cap during a five year Parliament. We could have a policy to increase the National Living Wage to 70% of average earnings. We could have a policy to ensure everyone who wanted a job had one.

    Our lack of policies to end poverty over a five year period proves that we are not really serious in wanting to end poverty in the UK.

  • Helen Dudden 24th Jan '18 - 5:26pm

    In Bath Family Planning is up for cuts. What has this to do with housing? More need for larger homes? We are going back to Victorian values, a woman has the right to make a choice. Even more poverty?
    Being born in 1948 I have seen change, not always for better.
    Making cuts for the sake of cutting will only cost more in the end.

  • Sue Sutherland 25th Jan '18 - 1:55pm

    How very sad it is that some of us feel we have no legitimacy to tackle poverty because of our years in Coalition. It’s easy to forget that our primary purpose during those years was to tackle the financial crisis and that the main economic policy open to us was to support austerity because by then all three parties had succumbed to the Thatcherite version of economics.
    I am hopeful that the party will be able to find a way to do the kind of things Michael BG suggests through a new economic vision which isn’t a repetition of the past 40 years or back to the socialist/ communist version either. It will take courage but at least because of Coalition we haven’t got much to lose. At least we recognise that Brexit will mean the economy won’t be able to support the kind of society that’s fair, just and compassionate.

  • David Evans 25th Jan '18 - 2:33pm

    I’m sorry Sue, but for many of us “our primary purpose during those years was NOT to tackle the financial crisis” but in fact it was to finally prove to the British people what a real difference the Lib Dems could make in government. That was what so many previous generations of Liberals and Lib Dems had spent the previous 50 years doing.

    This meant dealing with the financial crisis while preventing the Tories using it as an excuse for the cuts fest we ultimately let them get away with. None of the troops realised it at the time, but apparently our leader had a different agenda, which was to show coalition worked. In fact Nick failed to do either – proving to the wider British community that we hadn’t made a difference as far as they were concerned and that they would rather we never came close to being in government ever again.

    It is the consequence of that toxic legacy that means we are in no position to do anything about poverty and homelessness – because there are now next to none of us left (in parliament or in most council chambers) to do anything about it. That is why David Raw is right – people are just not listening!

  • Katharine Pindar 25th Jan '18 - 11:27pm

    I am absolutely with Sue Sutherland and Michael BG over this. The party needs above all to create a new economic vision, as Sue says, and with many of the radical policies Michael consistently recommends, to fight poverty and inequality. We aren’t there yet, Caron, with our policies, and it should be our priority to produce the programme needed for the next five years through urgent debating and decision-making in the party.

  • David Evans 27th Jan '18 - 1:40pm

    But Katharine, the question is How do the Lib Dems – a minor party in the minds of almost everyone except Liberal Democrats – create a new economic vision and get enough publicity for it so that enough voters actually think about it and decide they agree, when most people consider us either untrustworthy or irrelevant?

    My view is that we simply don’t have that long before Brexit consigns us, and our country, to the backwaters of long faded glory.

  • @ David Evans

    In 1957 there were only 5 Liberal MPs and only 6 in 1970. Our party is in a better shape than then with 12 MPs and more than 1900 councillors. We need to recognise that we have to have policies for a Britain outside the EU. I think we should state we reject austerity and are committed to running the economy to provide full employment. And we will not enter into any agreement with the Conservatives after the next general election. If we do these things then we should benefit from an anti-Conservative swing as we did in 1997 (I don’t expect us to gain as many as 20 MPs).

    Our role is to convince the rest of our party we have to do these things before the next general election. We should not give up or give way to despair.

  • David Evans 7th Feb '18 - 10:24am

    Michael I understand and agree with your point, but we also need to accept that no-one is listening to us and until we as a party (and in particular our senior figures and leader) have the courage to find out why and the put things right, no new policies, however good, will even get noticed. Just look at the funding the NHS paper the biggest thing we have done so far – little more than a one day wonder in news terms.

    Re what is wrong, I have my views, based on what people tell me on the doorstep and socially, i.e. it’s because of what we did in coalition, and made worse by a head in the sand attitude we have had to it since then. However, many of the party are still in total denial there is a problem, and most of the rest would rather ignore it and hope it goes away. The lack of any response to my questions on that matter makes that quite clear.

    However nationally we are going nowhere. Locally, for every Sunderland there is a Falmouth, and today LDV is headlining getting 5.3% as a “solid result.” On Thursday I gather there are seven council elections five of which have no Lib Dem candidate.

    When will we learn we are just prevaricating and wasting time?

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