On how Conservative politicians completely fail to grasp the reality of poverty and child poverty in the UK in 2020.
First published in October 2020.
Okie dokie, we are actually going for this line are we?
The number of people living in poverty where at least one person in the household is working was at about 56% before the pandemic, that is a 17% increase over the last 20 years.
72% of the roughly 4.2 million children living in poverty in the UK – to save time, Robert Syms, that is a third of all children in the country – are in a household where at least one person is working. Now, once again, these are pre-global pandemic figures.
Unsurprisingly, at the moment, unemployment is rising, with an estimated 1.5 million people unemployed, and liable to continue rising for the foreseeable future due to the impact of Covid. That means more families pushed into poverty.
But hang on, I hear you cry, surely those who are unemployed can get universal credit? Why should they get more money? Well, yes. They can receive universal credit, but, setting aside payment issues and small amount it is, it only covers up to 2 children.
This cap, therefore, directly pushes more households into poverty, and makes it harder for them to feed their children. Now, unless you are advocating for something like taking children into care, at a rather great cost, then you start to see an issue.
But wait, I said 72% of children living in poverty come from working families. So, why aren’t those families paying? Well, there is a funny little trick of language coming here... Despite government renaming minimum wage “living wage” it doesn’t mean it is.
So, we have families working and otherwise who genuinely can’t afford to feed their children, and that is getting worse, but I appreciate that cost is more important to some than humanity. After all, what do children starving matter in the face of money?
You see, hungry children – and this may come as a shock – don’t tend to focus as much, and therefore their education suffers. You see, it is a weird thing, but when you are starving you aren’t paying attention in class.
You then factor in the long term implications, not just on careers and employment, but also general health, mental health, etc., all of which lead to increased costs for guess who? That’s right, the government!
So, we have this strange thing whereby courtesy of government policies more children are being pushed in poverty, so more families needing free school meals. Then we have a global pandemic hit, and well, I think we all know the impact of that by now.
It could cost billions in the future, but for now you are looking at £20 million per week, or a little over £180 million until Christmas, and even were the cost to go into the billions, it is a far cheaper price than the long term effects.
In fairness, it is not just Robert Syms who completely fails to grasp the reality of the situation. Other Conservative MPs also seem to be in the running for out of touch MP of the day... and there is some stiff competition.🔷
Dan Sohege, Human rights advocate, international refugee law specialist, immigration economist, charity fundraising professional and Director of Stand For All.
🗳️ Robert Syms
🗳️ Ben Bradley