Tag Archives: Child Poverty Action Group

Willie Rennie highlights impact of Universal Credit cut

This week, the Scottish Parliament debated the £20 per week cut to Universal Credit that will be hitting already struggling families from tomorrow.

Willie Rennie highlighted the number of families on Universal Credit in the constituencies of Scotland’s Conservative MPs in his speech.

He also set out how some families, affecting up to 8000 children, would lose much more. If their entitlement to Universal Credit is £20 or less, then they lose entitlement to so many other benefits, including the Scottish Child Payment. A briefing from the Child Poverty Action Group explains:

Mhari is 23. She and her partner have a two year old son. Mhari works part-time and her partner works full time at the National Minimum Wage, earning just over £1900 between them. They get £19.45 per week from universal credit (UC) and are entitled to £10 per week Scottish Child Payment. If UC is cut by £20 per week they will lose entitlement to both their UC support and Scottish Child Payment. This means their household income will drop by £1531 per year. They will lose an £18 every four weeks Best Start Foods payment card and they will not be entitled to the Best Start Grant early learning payment, worth £250, when their two year old turns three.

This highlights that for some families the £20 cut to UC will result in a much larger loss in overall household income.

Here is Willie’s speech in full:

Andrew Bowie has 3,620, David Mundell has 6,050, David Duguid has 6,280, John Lamont has 7,150, Alister Jack has 8,190 and Douglas Ross has 6,110. Those are the numbers of families in those politicians’ constituencies who will be directly impacted by the cuts to universal credit. The politicians can stand by and watch that happen to their constituents or they can stand up for them now, make their voices heard and, more important, make their votes count against the cut.

The measure could mean a £1,040 cut to people’s income or 22,000 people being plunged into poverty across the UK, according to the Child Poverty Action Group. The £20 is not a treat; it is a necessity for families, whose costs continue to rise. Their costs have not gone down just because the impact of the virus is potentially waning. Their costs are going up and at such a time they need more support, not less.

The Trussell Trust is right to point out that the move could force 82,000 people in Scotland alone to use food banks, one in four people to skip a meal, one in five to be unable to heat their home and one in five to be unable to get to work. That is especially ironic because, apparently, the cut is designed to get people into work. If they cannot get to work, they will not earn any more money than they are earning now.

The Conservatives seem to be concerned about the cost of the £20 rise to the overall Exchequer, but they have also said that work is the best route out of poverty. If they had any confidence in their multibillion-pound so-called work plan, they would not be cutting universal credit, because if all those people went into better-paid work there would not be a demand on universal credit. Therefore, their plan does not work.

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Hungry children are suffering, here in the UK

I’ve been doing a bit of work in my constituency about the effects of Universal Credit on local people, the rising use of Food Banks, and the inadequate funding given to rural schools in North Devon.

With that perspective, I was dismayed but not surprised to read a recent article highlighting the social exclusion experienced by children living in poverty.

This is personal for me – I grew up in a military household, having enough to live on but not a lot, and when my father left the forces, we were poor for a couple of years until he retrained and got another job. For those years, I felt excluded. I wore hand-me-downs and home-made clothes. I didn’t fit in as we had moved into a rural community from outside the country. My accent was funny, my safety net of having friends from military families on base was gone, and I was bullied. Things settled down, but I will never forget that first year of leaving the ‘family’ of military life and entering civilian life as an 11-year-old child. But I was never hungry.

The new study by University College London, Living Hand to Mouth, published yesterday, looks at the impact hunger has on children’s lives. As readers will know, free school meals have been cut back by the Conservative Government. It is Lib Dem policy, however, to reinstate free school meals for all those on Universal Credit and, further, that all primary school children regardless of their income level should have a free school meal. Nutrition is ever so important for learning. A healthy child is one who can flourish and absorb knowledge. A hungry one can not.

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Lib Dem Conference highlights – Caron on the Fringe

So, another group of Lib Dem Conference highlights with a shamelessly self-indulgent look back at the fringe meetings I spoke at.

The Child Poverty Action Group fringe

On Monday I spoke at a fringe meeting run by the excellent Child Poverty Action Group. The work of groups like CPAG is so important in highlighting the impact of poverty and it’s great that they speak up, even when what they have to say is uncomfortable for us as Liberal Democrats to hear.

The theme of the meeting was around achieving social justice. What would that look like?

The botched implementation of Universal Credit was a major aspect. Along with the appalling family cap, it was cutting the incomes of the poorest families by £3000-£5000.

We had passed policy that very morning that tackled several of the concerns that CPAG had – like restoring a second work allowance and restoring the cuts announced by George Osborne the minute we left the Coalition.

Starring in a video with Malala and Jo Swinson

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The Independent View: Save our safety net

Four children are left home alone for five days. Social services step in to move the kids out to live with their father. But there’s a problem: the council have found a flat for the newly formed family, but it is unfurnished. The dad lives on a low income and does not have the savings to buy five beds and mattresses, and all the other furniture that is needed. If the property isn’t adequately furnished, the children will have to be taken into care. (See case study here).

Situations like this exist up and down the country. In this case, the family were awarded a loan from the local welfare provision (LWP) scheme run by their local authority which allowed them to start again after this period of massive instability. But if they lived in a different part of the country their local provision might not have been as generous, or the local council simply may not have established a scheme at all. And with central government funding to councils for LWP currently under threat, support of this type is likely to be even more limited in the future.

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The Independent View: Universal Credit..will it work?

When the first Universal Credit (UC) pilot was launched in Ashton-under-Lyne last week, much attention was paid to the practicalities of the new benefit, from the timetable to the IT system, the challenge of online claims to the problems with monthly payments. A new report published this week by Child Poverty Action Group and the TUC, however, considers the bigger question of whether UC can deliver on its broader objectives, and in particular on how the new benefit can truly ‘make work pay’.

UC relies on two key design features to deliver on this promise. First, it allows claimants who …

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The Independent View: The determinants of child poverty

End child pverty now - Some rights reserved by RMLondonWhat do the public think are the key determinants of child poverty? New DWP polling released last week aimed to answer this question, but in fact proved anything but conclusive.

Asked to choose four out of a possible eleven factors that should be regarded as important when deciding if a child is growing up in poverty, respondents’ answers were spread remarkably evenly across the board. All the factors – from low income to parental disability, poor housing conditions to debt – were …

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Thu 28th Oct 2021
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