UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Cuts exacerbate rising child poverty in the UK

Whilst Cameron hypes up public service reform to satiate the Tory right, Save the Children calculated at the end of 2008 that 1.7 million or 13% of the UK's children were living in severe poverty, and that not only have efforts to reduce child poverty stalled, they have gone into reverse: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/docs/sevchildpovuk.pdf

In some areas of the UK such as Manchester and Glasgow child poverty affects around a quarter of all children.

Save the Children's director of UK programmes Fergus Drake said "it's shocking that at a time when the UK was experiencing unprecedented levels of wealth the number of children living in severe poverty - we're talking about children going without a winter coat, a bed and other day-to-day essentials - actually increased”.

Not unsurprisingly the report predicts the recession is likely to have increased severe poverty by a further 100,000 children. Benefit payments and tax credits would have brought numbers back down to pre-recession figures but Tory cuts to housing benefit and welfare payments has meant progress has and will continue to spiral into decline.

This is not just a macro economic issue. It is a micro economic issue in every council across the UK. The most effective way out of poverty for these children is to have parents who are able to earn a decent living wage. The few jobs that are available are too low paid and too short in available hours of work to make a difference to the lives of these children.

Decent jobs have to be at the heart of tackling child poverty. That is why it is sickening and grossly naïve for council leaders to assume a way out of budget cuts is to further outsource local jobs to tackle council budget deficits.

Instead of entering a Dutch auction on the future pay and pensions of public sector workers council leaders should be supporting their role as a standard maker in local employment markets, proving that there is a better way than a race to the bottom.

Placing more public sector workers either on the dole or into worse employment conditions, particularly in so-called third sector (read as poverty pay) employers is not the answer.

It is time Labour council leaders stood up to defend the value of public employment and to set the standard for other local employers to lead the way in creating decent local jobs. If they don’t we will risk a further lost generation of children too bloody impoverished to aspire beyond the imprisonment of being poor.

Anna Rose

See also 'Tackling child poverty - What kind of society do we want?' at http://unisonactive.blogspot.com/2011/02/tackling-child-poverty-what-kind-of.html