By Nisha Rikhi
Child poverty is on the rise with 4.3 million children living in poverty in the UK. It is characterised by children sleeping in a cold bedroom, going to school hungry and missing out on school trips because their parents can’t afford to pay for them. Unfortunately, the current pandemic has made child poverty even more noticeable. This is due to the rising unemployment among working adults. According to Citizens Advice, 3 in 10 people with children under 18 are facing redundancy. This means that there will be more children living in households that are in a state of flux, unsure when or if the parent who has lost their job will be able to get another job. If a family finds itself without a steady income, children could find themselves being the odd one out because they have to wear second-hand clothes or use hand-me-down textbooks. All of this suggests that urgent action is required to reduce child poverty.
There are many steps that Britain can take to reduce child poverty. The Bevan Foundation has suggested that Britain could do this by increasing household income through increasing participation of mothers in the labour market and maximising the take up of free school meals and school uniform grants. Increasing uptake of free school meals and school uniform grants would help reduce child poverty as families would have access to state funds to ensure their children are fed and clothed during the school term-time. The government could also make eligibility rules more lenient so that more families with children qualify for in-work welfare benefits. According to Citizens’ Advice, 6% of a working family’s income comes from welfare support and singe parents with low incomes get 42% of their income from welfare support. This suggests that making more working families eligible for in-work benefits would reduce the number of children living in poverty.
In the current climate, it is young people who have been predominately affected by the rise in unemployment due to Covid-19. Part of the problem is that child poverty affects children’s abilities to do well at school. The Children’s Society says that children who are eligible for free school meals are less likely to get A* to C grades at GCSE then their wealthier classmates. This means that children who have grown up in poverty often have fewer qualifications or worse grades which directly impacts their employability.
However, there are steps that Britain can take to reduce youth unemployment. Hire the Youth has suggested that encouraging entrepreneurship would reduce youth unemployment. This is because Britain’s economy is fuelled by small businesses and teaching children the skills needed to run a business would enhance the independence of young people.
Offering paid rather than unpaid internships to young people would also reduce youth employment. This is because offering a basic wage alongside high quality training would increase engagement of young people and enhance their industry specific and transferable skills which would increase their employability. An example of this is the government’s Kickstart Scheme which has created high-quality six-month work placements for young people. Increasing work experience opportunities would help reduce youth unemployment. This is because allowing students to experience a variety of different workplace environments will help to prepare them for the world of work and broaden their opportunities to be employed.
Finally, improving apprenticeships would also reduce youth unemployment. This is because the focus should be on developing industry specific skills and upskilling young people which would make them more employable. Deploying all of these options would reduce youth employment as businesses will have a wider labour market to recruit from and a hand in developing the skills that are vital to their industries. This would benefit society as it would reduce the number of people on welfare, reduce crime and increase the tax base that would allow for increased government spending.
 The Children’s Society, Ending Child Poverty https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/our-work/ending-child-poverty>
 Citizens Advice, An unequal Crisis (Citizens Advice, 2020) < https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/our-work/policy/policy-research-topics/work-policy-research-surveys-and-consultation-responses/work-policy-research/an-unequal-crisis/>
 The Children’s Society, Effects of Living in Poverty < https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/our-work/ending-child-poverty/effects-of-living-in-poverty>
 The Bevan Foundation, Seven ways to reduce child poverty. (The Bevan Foundation, 2015) https://www.bevanfoundation.org/commentary/seven-ways-reduce-child-poverty/#:~:text=So%2C%20what%20should%20be%20done%20about%20child%20poverty%3F,quality%20of%20provision%20…%207%20Leadership%20and%20Commitment>
 Citizen’s Advice, Just About Managing (Citizens Advice, 2016) < https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/Global/CitizensAdvice/Work%20Publications/JustAboutManaging-final.pdf>
 The Children’s Society, Ending Child Poverty < https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/our-work/ending-child-poverty/effects-of-living-in-poverty>
 Hire the Youth, Ways to Reduce Youth Unemployment. (Hire the Youth, 2017) < https://www.hiretheyouth.org/reduce-youth-unemployment/#:~:text=Ways%20to%20Reduce%20Youth%20Unemployment%201%20Encourage%20Entrepreneurship,A%20national%20levy%20scheme%20for%20skill%20shortage%20areas>
 Federation of Small Businesses, Kickstart Scheme < https://www.fsb.org.uk/campaign/kickstart-scheme.html>