Welfare changes will increase pressure on children’s services

Welfare reforms announced in the comprehensive spending review are likely to create more children in need

Welfare reforms announced in the comprehensive spending review are likely to create more children in need and heap more pressure on children’s services, campaigners have warned.

A spokesperson for the End Child Poverty Campaign said the cut from 80% to 70% of childcare cost contributions for working tax credit recipients, combined with the extra hours parents will need to work to receive the benefits, will force more children beneath the poverty line.

“The changes, when looked at together, could have a severe impact. We expect to see child poverty increase – in contrast to the government’s pledge to end child poverty by 2020. As a result, it would be entirely reasonable to assume services will see a rise in demand.”

The increase in child tax credit – worth £30 in 2011-12 and £50 in 2012-13 – will amount to just 58p per week, per child in 2011 and 96p in 2012, while a loaf of bread costs 74p in some supermarkets. For many families, the reduction in coverage for childcare costs will cost more per week than they will receive per year in the child tax credit increase.

Rhian Beynon, spokesperson for the End Child Poverty Campaign, said: “The compensating measures don’t go nearly far enough for any family struggling to stay out of poverty, or deep in it already and fearing things will get worse still.

“The Spending Review will almost certainly increase child poverty and increase the economic costs faced by any society with high levels of poverty, inequality and social exclusion.”

Dr Katherine Rake, chief executive of the Family and Parenting Institute, said the increase to the working hours requirement – parents must work 24 hours  per week – will hit working single parents hardest. She pointed out that many single parents combine work and family life by working short hours while their children are at school.

“Such ‘mini-jobs’ are a vital stepping-stone away from benefits. But the announced increase in working hours needed to claim the working tax credit means that this path could be under threat. [This] could cost poorer single parents more to stay in the workplace.”

Rake said the reduction to childcare may also make many families on low incomes, and working lone mothers in particular, feel they cannot afford to work.

The changes also leave disabled children in the dark, according to the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign which has called on the government to provide more clarity on the level of funding available for disabled children’s services.

Christine Lenehan, director of the Council for Disabled Children, said: “We are concerned that the 2010 Spending Review does not provide local areas with any clarity about the funding available for disabled children’s services. We know that services are already closing due to uncertainty about funding from April 2011. EDCM urges the Department for Education and the Department of Health to write to local areas to confirm the funding that will be available for disabled children’s social care and health services in 2011-12.”

Already a centre in Cumbria, which was going to provide a venue for short breaks for disabled children, looks likely to be one of the early victims of the chancellor’s cuts.

According to local reports, Cumbria County Council’s plans for Melbreak House are likely to be scrapped after losing £165,000 out of the £650,000 funding needed to transform the centre.

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