Child poverty on Merseyside: a thousand single parent families with a child in the household hit by benefit cap

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06 Feb 2018
At questions to Work and Pensions ministers in the House of Commons, Margaret Greenwood MP challenged the government to end the social security freeze which means that most working-age benefits, including child benefit, are frozen until 2020. You can find the question at http://bit.ly/2BXqyJ7

Margaret Greenwood MP also later highlighted the impact of the household benefit cap on lone parents in particular.

New government statistics on the benefit cap published recently showed that 72% of households capped were lone parent families & 77% of the lone parents capped had a child under 5.

One in four families are lone parent families.

On Merseyside just over a thousand (1,075) single parent families with a child in the household were affected by the cap. A single parent family with one or more child loses around £43 a week on average as a result of the cap and a couple with one or more children loses £63 on average. These are significant amounts of money to families already on low incomes.

Figures just published by the End Child Poverty Coalition of charities show 26% of children in Wirral growing up in poverty after housing costs are taken into account, 31% in Knowsley, 28% in Halton, 27% in Sefton and 34% in Liverpool.

The High Court ruled in June that the benefit cap should not be applied to the parents of children under two years-old.

The Judge in that case concluded that the two single parents concerned were ‘not workshy but find it, because of the care difficulties, impossible to comply with the work requirement.’ He went on to say that ‘real misery is being caused to no good purpose.’

Margaret Greenwood MP commented:

“New figures for child poverty show over a quarter of children in Wirral growing up in poverty and more than a third in Liverpool.

“When the benefit freeze began in April 2016, inflation was 0.3 per cent. It’s now over 3% and food prices in December were over 4% higher than a year earlier.

“A recent Institute of Fiscal Studies report showed that one in four of Britain’s poorest households are struggling with problem debt.

“Government statistics just out show that 72% of families affected by the benefit cap are single parent families and of those over three-quarters have a young child under 5.

“Just over a thousand single parent families on Merseyside are affected by the household benefit cap.

“The benefit cap is designed to encourage people to find work. Once they do, if they start claiming Working Tax Credits they are then exempt from the cap.

“However, research by the charity Save the Children recently highlighted that although many parents of young children would like to work, they often have real difficulty both finding affordable childcare that enables them to work and accessing government help with the cost.

“That is why the parents of very young children are not required to work under the rules for Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit.

“The government talks of supporting families, but that should mean all families. Many, like single parents subject to the benefit cap, are no longer ‘just about managing’, but struggling to cope with essential household bills.”

“It is important children get the best start in life. Many are unable to because their parents struggle to pay the bills.”

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