The Independent

Four million children live in universal credit households


The number of children in low-income families receiving universal credit has risen to 4 million, analysis of new official data shows.

That figure is half a million more than the same time last year, according to the statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The rise comes as The Independen­t’s Feed the

Future campaign urges the government to help more children with free school meals by including those on universal credit, who are currently exempt from the scheme.

It is estimated 800,000 children live in poverty but miss out on free school meals because their parents earn more than £7,400 a year, excluding benefits. Universal credit payments help to support people who are low-income or out of work. Half of the households claiming this type of benefit in August had children, according to the new government data. This covered more than four million children, which was nearly 10,000 more than the month before, the analysis showed.

It was also an increase of half a million from August last year when 3.5 million children were living in households claiming universal credit. The Child Poverty Action Group said children in these homes would face big cuts to household incomes if benefits rise in line with wages instead of inflation.

Alison Garnham from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said: “Children are going hungry because family budgets are at snapping point. This problem has been long in the making and in the current crisis another realterms cut is indefensib­le.”

New analysis from CPAG found lowincome families will see a sharper rise in outgoing costs next financial year – 21 per cent up from 2021-2022 – compared to 17 per cent for average households as they spend a higher proportion of their income on the necessitie­s that have seen the greatest increases.

“The prime minister has said he will protect the most vulnerable – as a minimum that means uprating benefits with inflation so that children have enough food and warmth this winter – but longer term more will be needed,” Ms Garnham said.

Her charity is also calling on the government to expand eligibilit­y for free school meals to all families on means-tested

benefits and to remove the benefit cap limiting the amount some families can receive.

The DWP said there has been a “long-term upward trend” in the proportion of households receiving universal credit. Only people without children seeking employment are allowed to claim the benefit when it was first introduced, but it has been expanded over time and others have since transferre­d to it, the department said.

The government was approached for comment.

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 ?? (PA) ?? The number has risen by 10,000 since last month
(PA) The number has risen by 10,000 since last month
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