Welfare Reform & Work Bill could create a ‘lost generation’ of children growing up in poverty

Inquiry reportThis week, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Health in All Policies, which I Chair, published our report on the impact of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill on child poverty and child health.

The report outlines how a generation of children who grow up in poverty, and have worse health as a result, risk being airbrushed from official records.

I believe that we must have a successful and prosperous economy, but this all-party report clearly illustrates that the Government’s attempts at an economic recovery are being built on the backs of the poor and vulnerable, widening the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

It’s unbelievable that in 2016 there are 3.7m children in the UK living in poverty, the majority (60%) of whom have parents in low-paid work, and that the Welfare Reform Bill introduces measures that have the potential to increase the number of children growing up in poverty by 1.5 million by 2020.

The Inquiry examined the evidence of the relationship between child poverty and child health, and then looked at seven measures within the Welfare Reform and Work Bill to see how each of these is likely to affect child poverty and as a consequence child health.

Out of these, six measures will directly and detrimentally affect child poverty. The seventh measure which looked at the impacts of the 1% reduction in social housing rent, appeared to have a short term, positive impact on household incomes but in the longer term will reduce the availability of affordable housing, driving up rents and housing costs.

Over 30 recommendations were made to try and address the negative effects of the Welfare Bill and to make the Government think again when the Bill comes back to the Commons for consideration of Lords Amendments on 23rd February.Report launch panel

With the Bill making no requirement for child poverty strategies to be established at local, or national level, it will make the true scale of child poverty and inequality in this country invisible!

We need a comprehensive, cross-government strategy to tackle child poverty, otherwise we are in danger of failing our children and creating a lost generation.

The cumulative effects of this Bill will be to significantly increase child poverty.

This is utterly unacceptable especially when there is strong evidence which shows that eliminating child poverty in the UK would save the lives of 1,400 children under 15 every year.

Conversely, knowingly introducing national policy which will increase children living in poverty, condemning many to unfulfilled futures or worse, is not just a dereliction of responsibility but is morally bankrupt.

As one of our witnesses so eloquently put in their evidence to the inquiry: “It baffles me; if poverty was an environmental pollutant that had such a toxic effect on children and their life chances [we’d act]; how [are] we able to let something like this wash over such huge chunks of the population knowing what impact it’s going to have on children’s lives?”

You can read the report in full here.

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