400,000 more families with children now claiming UC

New government figures reveal that the number of families with children claiming Universal Credit increased by a third as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic peaked in April and May.

In a recent survey by Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, seven in ten low income parents said they didn’t have enough money to cover food and essential items, with six in ten saying they have been forced to borrow money since the start of the crisis.

The Save the Children charity is now warning that, without urgent government action to protect struggling families and their children, the country faces an acute increase in child poverty. It says that a £20-a-week boost to the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit is needed to protect children from the long-term impacts of the pandemic. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that this would help to support eight million children.

Kayte Lawton, head of Partnerships and Impact at Save the Children, said: “For a parent relying on Universal Credit, every day can be a struggle to keep your head above water. Parents reeling from the effects of the pandemic tell us they’re having to make impossible choices - cutting back on food and other essentials, struggling to buy school supplies, or borrowing money from payday lenders or on credit cards to get by.

“The government has put measures in place to help the economy ‘bounce back’ from this crisis, but they haven’t done enough to help struggling families and most children can’t ‘bounce back’ from growing up in poverty because the impacts are life-long.

“Even before the crisis, our country’s safety net was failing too many children. Now there is a danger that even more families will fall through the net – and it is children who will pay the price, possibly for the rest of their lives. Providing an urgent, £20-a-week boost to the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit could help millions of families make ends meet, and protect a generation of children from being held back in the years to come.

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, 414,250 families with children started claiming UC during April and May 2020.