Universal credit cut will lead to more UK children in care – study | Universal credit

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Around 1,500 more UK children a year are said to be taken away from their families and taken into care following the explosion in child poverty caused by the removal of the universal credit increase of £ 20 per week, according to a study.

The impact of the reduction on families already in difficulty would lead to a 5% increase in the number of children in care and would see 5,500 additional children placed in child protection plans, including thousands more officially. classified as “in need” after being referred to social services.

Academic modeling estimates the additional cost to councils of an increase in protective services would be £ 100million per year at a time when local authorities are already failing to fund growing numbers of children in care during the pandemic.

Poverty is closely linked to increased parenting stress, mental illness and domestic violence, all risk factors for child protection interventions. The study estimates that 290,000 UK children are currently living in households that will fall below the poverty line once the increase, worth £ 1,050 per year, is removed.

The researchers urged ministers to abandon plans to cut universal credit from next month in order to ease growing pressures on low-income households. With the increase in national insurance and soaring food and energy bills, some families could find themselves in a worse situation than £ 1,750 a year by April.

“Put simply, it is more difficult to protect children from adversity if families are living in material difficulties. Poverty directly affects children and causes toxic stress within families, putting them at increased risk, ”said study co-author David Taylor-Robinson, professor of public health and policy at the University of Liverpool.

He added: “The current dramatic increase in the number of children in care is already putting unbearable pressure on the budgets of local authorities. To have a chance to “improve”, it is essential that families with children are protected from the harmful effects of child poverty. “

While the government is looking for ways to lessen the impact of the £ 20 reduction on some claimants, researchers said it would have a ‘marginal’ effect and would do little to protect claimants from the consequences of a large and sudden shock to household income. .

Josh MacAlister, the head of the ongoing government-commissioned review of children’s welfare, said he would carefully review the research results. The interim review report released in June confirmed a causal link between poverty and rising levels of child abuse and neglect.

“Poverty creates stress in itself and makes families less resistant to other shocks and struggles,” he said. “While social assistance is outside the scope of this review, we recognize that increasing poverty has implications for spending on children’s social protection. “

Charlotte Ramsden, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said: The plan, or the start of care, should reinforce the need for urgent action.

“While care is the right place for some children, pursuing policies that will knowingly exacerbate the hardships families face and even plunge them into crisis seems a long way from the promise of leveling the country. “

A government spokesperson said: “We have put in place unprecedented social assistance and we have ensured that vulnerable children and families can access it. Helping people get back to work is the best way to end the cycle of poverty – that’s why our multibillion-pound Jobs Plan aims to help them learn new skills, increase their hours or to find a new job.

“We have invested millions in frontline charities that directly support vulnerable children, and we advocate for family centers where parents can get essential services for their children from infancy to 19 years old. Our innovation agenda explores new ways to improve outcomes for children in or at risk of care, and the Independent Review of Child Social Protection examines how to reform the system, including how to help children. families to stay together safely.

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