Child poverty 'could rise to record high' under Tory government, warns think tank

Posted On: 
26th November 2019

Child poverty could reach a "record high" if the Conservatives win the general election, according to a leading think tank.

A Conservative spokesperson said Boris Johnson's party was 'committed to tackling child poverty'.
Credit: 
PA

The Resolution Foundation said the Tory election manifesto promises no changes to existing welfare policy.

It predicted that as a result, the number of children living in relative poverty will rise from 29.6% in 2017-18 to 34.5% by 2023-24 under the Conservatives.

AT-A-GLANCE: All the policies as Boris Johnson unveils Tory election manifesto

AT-A-GLANCE: All the key points as Jeremy Corbyn unveils Labour’s ‘manifesto of hope’

AT-A-GLANCE: The key pledges from the Liberal Democrats' election manifesto

The think tank said a string of policy changes since the Tories came to power in 2020 had led to social security spending being £34bn lower than it would otherwise have been.

With the Conservative manifesto offering "no changes to the status quo", the report said the party would preside over a further £3.8bn in cuts to working age benefits.

“As a result, under Conservative plans child poverty risks reaching a 60-year high of 34%,” it said.

In contrast, the Resolution Foundation said Labour has a "far-reaching plan" for social security spending, with a £9bn boost to benefits and pledges to extend free TV licenses, broadband, school meals and childcare.

However, it said that while "large families, renters and disabled people" are likely to gain from the party's proposals, people outside of those groups could still be "worse off than under the pre-2015 system.".

Meanwhile Labour's plans to halt the rise in the state pension age and compensate the so-called 'Waspi' women affected by pension changes only "reinforce rising pensioner spending".

The Liberal Democrats' plans are "slightly more progressive" than Labour's because they avoid extra pensioner spending and include "welcome improvements to Universal Credit for second earners and the self-employed", the think tank report said.

However, it concluded: "Either the Labour or Liberal Democrat approach could be expected to halt potential increases in relative child poverty over the next parliament, but under none of these plans does child poverty actually fall."

Launching the research, Laura Gardiner of the Resolution Foundation said: "Against the backdrop of major cuts, the parties’ manifestos do offer big choices on social security.

“Under the Conservatives little is set to change, and child poverty risks reaching a record high in the coming years. Labour and Liberal Democrat pledges to spend £9bn more would mean child poverty being over 500,000 lower than under Conservative plans. However, this would not do enough to see child poverty fall from today’s already high levels."

A Conservative spokesperson defended the party's record on poverty.

"We are committed to tackling child poverty and have made progress since we came into government – with 730,000 fewer children in workless households," they said.

“But we know that we must continue to make every effort on this issue and our manifesto sets out how we will use the tax and benefits system to do this. The Prime Minister has committed to giving every child in the country the opportunities to make the most of their talents.”

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: "The choice at this election is clear: record child poverty under the Tories or – with Labour – the strongest and widest fight against the root causes of child poverty for a generation."