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A new Unicef report has revealed that the number of UK children living in poverty has increased to more than a quarter as a result of benefits cuts after the 2008 recession, United Nations Children’s Fund has told the Times newspaper.
According to the report, Unicef found that the UK, Italy, Greece and Spain saw an “unprecedented increase” in severe material deprivation.
This includes factors like whether families can heat their homes, afford reasonable food for their children and pay the rent.
David Bull, the executive director of Unicef UK, told (£) The Times: “It’s disappointing to see that 18 countries have managed to reduce levels of child poverty during that difficult economic period and the UK has seen it get worse."
The report can be read on the Unicef website.
Experts have called on the Government to take action over poverty say their research shows full-time work is not always sufficient to escape poverty.
Findings from the project, Poverty and Social Exclusion in the United Kingdom (PSE), based on two surveys, will be discussed at in London this week.
Professor David Gordon is from the Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol, which led the project involving 14,559 people in the UK.
"The coalition Government aimed to eradicate poverty by tackling the causes of poverty. Their strategy has clearly failed," Prof Gordon said.
He added: "The available high-quality scientific evidence shows that poverty and deprivation have increased since 2010, the poor are suffering from deeper poverty and the gap between the rich and poor is widening."
Experts say the percentage of households that fall below society's minimum standard of living has increased sharply over the last 30 years, despite the size of the economy doubling.
Researchers who carried out the largest study of poverty and deprivation conducted in the UK found the figure had increased from 14% to 33%.
The study said almost 18m people cannot afford adequate housing conditions, while 12 million are too poor to engage in common social activities.
One in three people cannot afford to heat their homes properly in winter, with four million children and adults not properly fed by today's standards.
The Prime Minister's social mobility tsar has criticised the Government's child poverty strategy saying it "sidestepped" the fact that the situation has been "stagnating".
Alan Milburn, the chairman of the Government's Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, said independent projections expect child poverty to rise significantly by the end of the decade.
Writing in a blog on the commission's website, Mr Milburn called the new document "a list, not a strategy" that failed to engage with expectations that the 2020 target to eradicate child poverty "will be missed by a country mile".
He was joined in his condemnation by Labour MP Frank Field, who stressed the strategy "has learnt nothing from the mistakes of the past."
Mr Field said, "The bickering between the Chancellor and the Work and Pensions Secretary distracts from the crunch issue in tackling child poverty - what stops the poorest children from being up there with children from richer families when they begin their first day at school?"
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has released for consultation the Government's draft strategy to tackle child poverty over the next three years.
The strategy reiterates the Government's commitment to end child poverty by 2020 and promises to "tackle poverty at its source".
The new document lists a range of existing policies which might help children living in poverty, including:
- Reforming the welfare system through Universal Credit
- Providing free school meals for all infant school children from September 2014
- Cutting tax for 25 million people by increasing the personal tax allowance and cutting income tax for those on the minimum wage by almost two thirds
- Reducing water costs by capping water bills of low-income families with three or more children on a water meter
- Reducing fuel costs by reducing the typical energy bill next year by around £50 on average
Child poverty figures released by the Government in June 2013 show:
- In 2011/12, 2.3 million children in the UK were classed as being in poverty
- That means 17% of children were in poverty (before housing costs)
- After housing costs were taken into account, 3.5 million children were in poverty
- That amounts to 27% of children in the UK
There was no percentage change from the 2010/11 figures on both scales (before and after housing costs).
Over a third of children in Manchester, Middlesbrough, Belfast and Glasgow are thought to live in poverty, according to data.
End Child Poverty also pointed to six London boroughs, including Tower Hamlets and Westminster, as being rated in the 20 worst areas for poverty.
Some "60% of cuts" implemented by the Government hit working low-income families, causing a swell in the number of children growing up in poverty, an expert has told Daybreak.
Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) chief Alison Grantham said there was "a real challenge" facing working low-income families as they were struggling to make ends meat.
Liveable wages and early intervention are they key to helping families out of poverty, a children's charity has said.
Save the Children's director of UK poverty policy, William Higham, praised Government plans to cut energy bills for Britain's poorest families but urged more action to tackle child poverty:
With child poverty predicted to rise by a million by 2020, more children will be growing up without the basics we expect, like a warm home and a winter coat.
The proposed government action on energy prices and insurance will make a difference - but we can't just bail out families, we need to fix the leak.
Work needs to become a route out of poverty and we must intervene early to help the poorest families and make sure their children don't fall behind at school.