Child Poverty Crisis in the UK in 2024: A Growing Concern and a Sign of Tory Mismanagement

Figures from the Department of State and Pensions show that 25 per cent of children in the UK in 2022-23 were living in absolute poverty, up from 23.8 per cent the previous year. “This is the largest annual increase since records began in 1994-95,” the World Socialist Website (WSWS) says. The growing child poverty crisis in the UK in 2024 indicates the Tories’ mismanagement.

Child poverty crisis in the UK in 2024

According to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), child poverty is high in the UK. Moreover, officials predict that it will rise further. Generally, 4.3 million children are living in poverty in the UK. In other words, nine children in an average classroom of 30 (30%) are living in poverty.  Regarding ethnicity, 47% of children from Black and minority ethnic groups are in poverty, compared to 24 per cent of white children. France 24 reports that a household is in relative poverty if it is below 60 per cent of the median income after housing costs.

CPAG surveyed the child poverty crisis in the UK in 2024. The respondents were from schools. The title of the survey report was, “‘There is only so much we can do’: School staff in England on the impact of poverty on children and school life”. Almost all respondents believe that child poverty in their schools has increased in the last two academic years. Comments include: “[I’ve noticed] students not having basics of equipment when coming to school.” “Children come to school concerned about their housing and home situations.” (Primary school governor, Yorkshire). “Children [are] tired and lethargic, starving.” (Teaching assistant, South West)

Impact of the two-child limit and the benefit cap

The child poverty crisis in the UK in 2024 is partly the result of the two-child limit and the benefit cap. The WSWS says several charities have referenced the impact of the two-child limit on welfare benefits. The two-child limit makes the most vulnerable sections of society pay for the economic crisis in the UK. It restricts child universal credit and tax credit allowances to the first two children in a family. However, it only applies to children born in April 2017 when the government introduced the policy. WSWS says low-income families have lost about £3,200 a year for any third or subsequent child born after April 2017.

The Resolution Foundation think tank presented a report in January titled “Catastrophic caps: An analysis of the impact of the two-child limit and the benefit cap.” It projects that the percentage of children in more prominent families in poverty will rise to 51 per cent by 2028-29, an increase of 17 per cent since 2014. These two policies together affected almost half a million families in Britain in 2022-23.

Tories are unable to support Brits

The child poverty crisis in the UK in 2024 shows that Tories are not able to support people. According to the WSWS, Peter Matejic, chief analyst from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, statistics show “just how far away our social security system is from adequately supporting people who have fallen on hard times”. As France 24 reports, statistics show how energy prices increased after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed more Britons into poverty.

In an article in the Observer, the NSPCC, Action for Children, Barnardo’s, the Children’s Society, and the National Children’s Bureau called for the next government to pass a law within 100 days of winning the general election to commit ministers to eliminating child poverty.

Labour’s stance on the two-child cap

According to the Financial Times, Labour is under pressure to reverse the two-child limit policy. Many campaigners insist that the scheme contributes to the high rates of child poverty in the UK. Joseph Howes, chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition, states that the two-child limit drives families into poverty. “Any plan to reduce child poverty will need to make eliminating this policy its number one priority,” he added.

The left wing of the Labour Party, including deputy leader Angela Rayner, has heavily criticised the policy. In 2020, she described it as “obscene and inhumane.” Labour seats in the North West and Midlands have the highest child poverty rates. However, the Labour leadership has not committed to dropping the policy, despite Labour declaring an “ambitious” cross-government strategy to tackle child poverty. The plan includes introducing free breakfast clubs in every primary school and ensuring a living wage.

The UK Government is spending too much on armed forces

The child poverty crisis in the UK in 2024 is partly due to spending too much on armed forces. The WSWS reports that the cost of abolishing the two-child limit in 2024-25 is just £2.5 billion. And abolishing the benefit cap with it would bring the cost up to £3 billion. However, Britain spends over £50 billion on the armed forces.

According to Chatham House, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to increase UK defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP by 2030. He says saying this would bring ‘an additional £75 billion for defence by the end of the decade’. Increasing the military budget is a welcome boost for Britain’s armed forces. Additionally, it is a prudent move in an increasingly hazardous geopolitical environment. However, it does not change that hard choices remain for Britain’s military even if this spending is delivered. For the UK to fund its existing ambitions, it may need to set a target closer to 3 per cent.

UK’s financial commitments to support Ukraine

Another factor worsening the child poverty crisis in the UK in 2024 is the budget the UK spends on Ukraine. According to the Commons Library Website, the UK has pledged £12.5 billion in support to Ukraine since February 2022. Mainly, £7.6 billion of this amount is for military assistance. Funding is from the Treasury Reserve and will not come from the Ministry of Defence’s (MOD) central departmental budget. However, spending on Ukraine does appear in MOD spending figures towards the end of the financial year. It is part of the MOD Supplementary Estimates. AP reports that the UK prime minister has said the country is putting its defence industry on a “war footing”.  It will increase defence spending by 2.5% of GDP by the decade’s end. Besides, the UK has pledged to send arms worth 500 million pounds ($620 million) to Ukraine.

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