23 Feb, 2016

Plans to freeze benefits for four years ‘will hit 7 million children’

The Guardian | Sally Weale } Education correspondent | 23 February 2016 

More than 7 million children living in low-income families will be affected by a four-year freeze to their benefits that risks pushing many more into poverty, according to new research.

A report by the Children’s Society, published on Tuesday, says families could lose up to 12% from the real value of their benefits over the next four years as a result of government plans to freeze child tax credits, working tax credits and jobseekers’ allowance from April.

The charity is calling on ministers to reconsider the planned freeze and agree to a moratorium on any further cuts in support for low-income families. It says almost two thirds of those who will be adversely affected live in working households who receive benefits to top up low pay.

The research paper, called The Future of Family Incomes, was published ahead of a debate in parliament on Tuesday about the government’s welfare reform and work bill, which returns to the Commons to consider amendments from the Lords. Charities are also looking anxiously ahead to next month’s budget.

Matthew Reed, Children’s Society chief executive, said: “Families on low incomes are facing a barrage of cuts. If ministers are genuinely concerned about child poverty they must reconsider plans to freeze benefits over the next four years.

“At the very least, the government needs to guarantee there will be no further cuts when the chancellor delivers his budget next month.

“Austerity has hit families hard, including those in work. Further cuts to support would push more children into poverty and undermine incentives for families to move into work or earn more.”

According to the End Child Poverty coalition, 28% of children in the UK currently live in poverty.

The Children’s Society research attempts to show for the first time the combined impact of the government’s key tax and benefit changes on the overall income of different family types. Some changes – such as George Osborne’s “national living wage” – promise to increase household incomes by 2020; other changes will cancel out those gains, the charity says, by cutting key support for many families.