Thousands of youngsters now facing benefit freeze woe

Lisa Nandy MP
Lisa Nandy MP
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Almost 40,000 children in Wigan live in families facing a four-year freeze to their benefits, research by The Children’s Society reveals.

The charity is warning that from April the freeze will hit almost 22,000 low-income families across the borough and that it risks pushing many more children into poverty as living costs rise.

Shockingly, more than half of those affected in Wigan – 26,200 children living in 14,700 families – live in working households who receive benefits to top-up low pay.

The charity says that freezing child tax credits, working tax credits and job seekers’ allowance – rather than raising them in line with living costs – could see affected families losing up to 12 per cent from the real value of their benefits and tax credits by 2020.

Nationally, The Children’s Society estimates that around 7.5 million children living in 4 million families across the UK will be hit by the benefits freeze. Of these, 4.9 million children in 2.6 million families could be affected, despite at least one parent in each family being in work.

The freeze forms part of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, which was debated in Parliament on Tuesday.

Ahead of next month’s Budget, the charity is urging the Government to reconsider its plan to freeze benefits and agree to a moratorium on further cuts in support for low-income families.

The Children’s Society’s briefing, The Future of Family Incomes: How key tax and welfare changes will affect families to 2020, reveals for the first time the collective impact of a range of welfare, tax and benefit measures announced, but not yet introduced, by the current and previous governments.

The charity says that while some changes might increase household incomes by 2020, others will cancel out any gains by significantly cutting key support for many families.

These include limiting Child Tax Credits to a family’s first two children and scrapping the family element of Child Tax Credit. In addition, Universal Credit claimants may receive less support.

Wigan MP Lisa Nandy (pictured) said: “This decision by the government is a huge social injustice. Children in Wigan are bearing the brunt of the government’s choice to protect the rich at the expense of ordinary families.

“The majority of people in poverty are also in work. Even after the welcome increase in the minimum wage, they will not earn enough to live on. Instead of freezing their benefits ministers should introduce a real living wage and repair the safety net for some of the poorest children in the country.”