60,000 children in keyworker households in Wales living in poverty
New research published today (Wednesday) from the Wales TUC finds that over sixty thousand children of key workers in Wales are currently living in poverty.
The figure, which the TUC says is based on the UK government definition of a key worker, represents almost one in four children of keyworkers (23.4%).
This is higher than the figure for the UK as a whole – 20.6% – and is 40% higher than the best performing region, East of England.
The Wales TUC says the main reasons for key worker family poverty are low pay and insecure hours – conditions that are common in occupations such as care work and for delivery drivers and retail staff.
High housing costs further reduce keyworker family budgets for essentials like groceries and utility bills. And support through Universal Credit is not enough to guarantee families avoid poverty.
Current UK government policies are likely to increase child poverty rates – including plans to cut Universal Credit for low-income families by £20 per week in October.
The union body has warned that current policies will put the brakes on the nation’s economic recovery by curbing household spending.
“This will restrain business activity, and impact on wage growth for other workers across the economy.” The TUC says.
The Wales TUC is also calling on the Welsh Government to improve its own support programmes for people in financial difficulty.
While welfare is not devolved, the Welsh Government does administer emergency support payments through its Discretionary Assistance Fund.
“But the Fund’s low profile and strict eligibility criteria has meant that many people who would benefit from it have been unable to access support.” The TUC says.
Wales TUC General Secretary Shavanah Taj said:
“Every key worker deserves a decent standard of living for their family. But too often their hard work is not paying off like it should. And they struggle to keep up with the basic costs of family life.
“This isn’t just about doing right thing by key workers. If we put more money in the pockets of working families, their spending will help our businesses and high streets recover. It’s the fuel in the tank that our economy needs.
“We need governments at both ends of the M4 to be doing everything possible. And at a time when Westminster appears to be abandoning key workers it becomes all the more important that the Welsh Government steps up to the plate. That means accelerating its Fair Work agenda, using every lever at its disposal to tackle insecure work, and expanding access to its emergency financial support schemes.”
The Wales TUC is calling on the UK and Welsh government to guarantee decent living standards for key worker families by:
- Raising the national minimum wage to £10 per hour immediately
- Provide the funding required so all public service workers receive a decent pay rise.
- Funding the public sector so that all outsourced workers are paid at least the real Living Wage and get parity with directly employed staff.
- Cancelling the £20 cut to universal credit, which is set to hit low-income families in October, and set out plans to increase child benefit above inflation each year across the parliament.
- Reforming and strengthening the Welsh Government’s financial support programmes.
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