More than one million children of key workers living in poverty, with North East worst affected, report says

New research suggests that insecure work and rising housing costs are causing many children to grow up in poverty

More than one million children of key workers are living in poverty, primarily due to low pay and insecure hours, a new report has found.

Research carried out by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) shows that key workers’ children are most likely to be living in poverty in the North East.

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More than one million children of key workers living in poverty, with North East worst affected, report says (Photo: Mark Hall/NationalWorld)

At a glance: 5 key points

– The TUC claims that more than one million children of key workers, roughly one in five nationally, are living in poverty

– In the North East, 29.1 per cent of children in key worker families are in poverty, followed by London, the West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber

– The main causes of poverty among key worker families are low pay and insecure hours, and particularly for those working in care, supermarkets or delivery driving.

The percentage of key worker children in poverty, by region (Photo: Mark Hall/NationalWorld)

– The report notes that high housing costs mean families have to divert funds away from groceries and bills, and the situation is likely to be made worse by the public sector pay cap and scrapping of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit

– The research was conducted by Landsman Economics using information from the Labour Force Survey and Family Resource Survey for 2019/20 to calculate the number of children in key worker households and how many of those households are in poverty. All figures are based on household income after housing costs.

What’s been said?

General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Every key worker deserves a decent standard of living for their family but too often their hard work is not paying off like it should and they struggle to keep up with the basic costs of family life.

More than one million children of key workers living in poverty, with North East worst affected, report says

“The prime minister has promised to ‘build back fairer’. He should start with our key workers. They put themselves in harm’s way to keep the country going through the pandemic.

“This isn’t just about doing the right thing by key workers.

“If we put more money in the pockets of working families, their spending will help our businesses and high streets recover.

“It’s the fuel in the tank that our economy needs.”

Director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, said: “Cuts to essential top-ups for low wages have left working parents struggling to meet their children’s basic needs. Three-quarters of children in poverty are in working families.

“Key workers care for the most vulnerable in our society and keep food on our supermarket shelves, they deserve better. These families desperately need the Government’s help to recover from the pandemic and stabilise their budgets in the longer term.”

Jonathan Reynolds, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions, said: “Under this Government, millions of children are growing up in poverty, the vast majority in working families. A basic principle of our economy has to be that people are paid a fair wage they can raise their family on.

“It is shameful that the very workers who got us through this crisis are in the firing line when it comes to poor pay and cuts to Universal Credit. The Government must immediately stop their cut to Universal Credit which will take £1,000 a year from millions of working families.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We are committed to making sure every child gets the best start in life, and this is central to our efforts to level up opportunity across the country.

“Children in households where every adult is working are around five times less likely to be in poverty than households where nobody works. That is why our multibillion-pound Plan for Jobs is vital, as it helps people improve their skills and move forward in their working life as we build back better.”