More than a quarter of children ‘live in poverty’, says UNICEF

The number of UK children living in poverty has increased to more than a quarter as a result of austerity measures introduced after the 2008 recession, Unicef has said.

The charity said it was “no accident” child poverty rates had risen in the UK, but fallen countries including Poland, Germany and Canada - blaming low pay and benefits cuts.

A global report in to the effect of the economic crisis on vulnerable children between 2008 and 2012 put the UK 25th out of 41 developed countries, after child poverty increased by 1.6% to 25.6%. It found an “unprecedented increase” in severe material deprivation - which includes whether families can pay the rent, heat their homes and afford reasonable diets - in the UK along with Greece, Italy and Spain.

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David Bull, the executive director of Unicef UK, said the majority of the children have working parents who are “not being paid enough” and not receiving enough contributions from the Government to escape poverty.

And he said policies on taxation, welfare, benefits and the minimum wage were all to blame for the worsening situation.

He said: “It’s disappointing to see that 18 countries have managed to reduce levels of child poverty during that difficult economic period and the UK has seen it get worse.

“If they can do it in Poland, Canada, Germany and Australia, why can’t we?

The child poverty rate was measured using a relative poverty line defined at 50% or 60% of median annual income in 2008, which in the UK amounted to £202 per week for a single parent with two children aged under 14 and £288 per week for a couple with two children aged under 14.

Labour Treasury spokeswoman Catherine McKinnell criticised the Conservatives “for wanting to cut tax credits for millions of working families, while keeping a £3 billion-a-year tax cut for the top 1% of earners.”

But the Department for Work and Pensions accused UNICEF of drawing “distorted comparisons” with the data, claiming as a result of Government actions, around 300,000 fewer children were in poverty or growing up in workless families.