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Poverty: Children

Question for Department for Work and Pensions

UIN HL1563, tabled on 7 July 2022

To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are taking to support lone parent families, in light of the Institute for Fiscal Studies briefing on 4 July which stated that (1) "1.5 million children of lone parents were in relative income poverty" in 2019–20, and that (2) "the pre-pandemic relative poverty rate for children of lone parents was almost double that for children living with two parents".

Answered on

21 July 2022

This Government is committed to reducing child poverty and supporting low-income families, and believes work is the best route out of poverty.  With a record 1.3 million vacancies across the UK, our focus is firmly on supporting people to move into and progress in work. This approach is based on clear evidence about the importance of parental employment - particularly where it is full-time – in substantially reducing the risks of child poverty and in improving long-term outcomes for families and children.

The latest available data on in-work poverty shows that in 2019/20, children in households where all adults were in work were around six times less likely to be in absolute poverty (before housing costs) than children in a household where nobody works.

To help parents into work, our Plan for Jobs is providing broad ranging support for all jobseekers with our Sector Based Work Academy Programmes (SWAP), Job Entry Targeted Support and Restart scheme.

We are also extending the support Jobcentres provide to people in work and on low incomes. Through a staged roll-out, which started in April 2022, around 2.1m low-paid benefit claimants will be eligible for support to progress into higher-paid work. This is on top of the support we have already provided by increasing the National Living Wage to £9.50 per hour and giving nearly 1.7 million families an extra £1,000 (on average) a year through our changes to the Universal Credit taper and work allowances.

To further support parents to move into and progress in work, eligible UC claimants can claim back up to 85% of their registered childcare costs each month up to a maximum of £646.35 per month for one child and £1,108.04 per month for two or more children. This is on top of the free childcare offer in England which provides 15 hours a week of free childcare for all 3- and 4-year-olds and disadvantaged 2-year-olds, doubling for working parents of 3- and 4-year-olds to 30 hours a week.

Around 1.9 million of the most disadvantaged pupils are eligible for and claiming a free school meal, saving families around £450 per year. In addition, around 1.25 million more infants enjoy a free, healthy and nutritious meal at lunchtime as well as over 90,000 disadvantaged further education students. We are also investing £200 million a year to continue the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, which benefitted over 600,000 children last summer, and we have increased the value of the Healthy Start Vouchers by a third to £4.25 a week.

Child Maintenance can make a real difference to lone parent households on a low income whether that is through a family-based arrangement (FBA) or the statutory scheme administered by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS). We estimate that receiving parents in separated families received £2.4 billion annually in child maintenance payments in the three financial years ending 2019 to 2021 through both FBAs and payments received through the CMS. As a result, there were around 140,000 fewer children in absolute low-income households each year on average between 2018/19 to 2020/21 (on an after-housing costs basis).