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  • Published in Analysis

Over a quarter of UK children will be living in poverty by the end of the decade as the Tory coalition's austerity measures wreck the lives of millions of families. Laura Woods looks at shocking figures produced by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS).

End Child Poverty protestA recent study by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) estimates that 800,000 more children will fall into poverty by 2020. That would be a rise in the child poverty rate from 19.9% to 24.4%. This will be the biggest increase in child poverty since the 1980’s, and would completely reverse the improvements made by Labour when 900,000 children were removed from poverty.

Let me repeat that figure again...it is predicted that that by 2020 nearly a quarter of children in the U.K will be living in absolute poverty. This is a far cry from the target set in 2010, which was for poverty to fall to 5% by 2020. Instead, a quarter of children in a developed, wealthy nation will be disadvantaged in every area of their lives because of a financial system which allows some  people to be obscenely rich while these children remain absolutely poor.

The London Child Poverty Commission estimates that currently there are 600,000 children living in poverty in London. That equates to 39% of London children. Out of 22 European countries the U.K  is ranked 18th for child poverty levels – only Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Italy rank behind the U.K. (Unicef 2010). A study of 12 rich countries showed that U.K children have the lowest chance of escaping from poverty (Unicef 2010)

Yet, instead of this being a national scandal the government is enacting policies which will worsen the situation. According to the IFS choices made by the Tories will increase child poverty by 200,000. The decision to shift tax credit and benefit calculations from RPI to CPI being especially significant as it will cut £11 million from low income families. In addition, average income is set to fall by 7% in real terms: the largest fall in 35 years.

The IFS figures are for children living in absolute poverty. Millions more children live in relative poverty.  The term relative poverty refers to a level o poverty which means children are disadvantaged and are excluded from normal social relationships. For example, children are unable to afford school trips, to ever have any sort of holiday, to go to birthday parties because they can’t afford a  present , to go swimming or play football etc.

Children lose out on making friends, developing social skills, and having fun. These are the children who will not be able to stay on at school once EMA disappears and are unlikely to be ever given the opportunity to escape the’ cycle of poverty’ which the Tories are perfectly happy to perpetuate.

Poverty affects every aspect of a child’s lie. 47% of children with asthma are from the poorest 10% of families, poor children are 5 times less likely to have access to a safe outdoor play area,  85% of children living in damp flats have breathing problems. (Poor Kids BBC1 7.6.11)

The raft of benefit cuts and cuts to public services will disproportionately impact upon the poor, women, children and disabled people. Caps on housing benefit levels will mean children being uprooted from schools and friends when they are forced to move from their stable homes to cheaper housing.

A benefits cap regardless of how many children are in the family will mean more children being forced into poverty just because they happen to have been born into a large family. Thomas Hardy’s  novel ‘Jude the Obscure’, where all the children hang themselves ‘because we are too many’, appears to be of modern relevance.

Meanwhile, the rich continue to send their children to public schools, buy them ponies and music lessons and pay for internships, houses, savings and shares for them. The stark message of the Occupy Wall Street campaign -  that we are the 99% - just became clearer here.

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