Call for a stronger social security lifeline for children

Date: 25th June 2020
Category: Child poverty

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Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Save the Children recently polled 3,000 families with children claiming Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit to discover their experience of COVID-19.

The polling showed:

  • The crisis has caused seven in 10 of these families to cut back on essentials including food, utilities, nappies and activities for children such as books and toys, with around 50% cutting back on food. Families from BAME backgrounds have been hardest hit with 86% of BAME respondents reported to have cut back on at least one of these essentials, compared to 69% of white respondents. Additionally, 65% of BAME respondents were reported to be behind with at least one of the following: council tax payments, rent or mortgage, or other bills, compared with 48% of white respondents. Debt is also a more common experience for BAME respondents, with 74% stating that they have had to resort to borrowing compared with 57% of white respondents.
  • The seismic shock of COVID-19, has made it difficult for families to manage their tight budgets, leaving 6 in 10 families having to borrow money and five in 10 families being behind on rent or other essential bills.
  • 65% said their mental health has been affected by concerns about money, with around a quarter reporting a severe impact.
  • Almost six in 10 families said they have faced extra food costs because of the complexities of adhering to social distancing with children and the ongoing pressure on supermarket stock. This has left many families having to limit their shopping trips and often finding that there are only more expensive alternatives on the shelves.
  • A total of 41% of families surveyed reported that they had incurred extra costs for heating, electricity and water. Access to adequate heating, electricity and water is imperative for families with children, particularly those living with an illness or disability. For those living with respiratory conditions, warmth provides an important safeguard in terms of managing symptoms which is essential during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Home-schooling has led to 28% of parents encountering extra costs, such as pens and books, and 23% reported that they had to spend more on internet access.

From these findings, Save the Children and Joseph Rowntree Foundation have called for the UK Government to increase to the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit by £20 per week to support those struggling to stay afloat. The equivalent of £2.85 per day, would ease the pressure on care-givers and help to support parents to nurture and look after their children.

  • Read more about this research here.