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Charities fear child poverty surge

The number of children living in vulnerable families in Britain will rise sharply to more than one million by 2015 unless urgent action is taken, a coalition of children's charities has warned.

Unemployment and changes to tax and benefits mean that already vulnerable families will be disproportionately affected and face being £3,000 worse off each year, according to their report.

Research has also found that the number of children living in what are classed as extremely vulnerable families is set to almost double from under 50,000 now to 96,000 in three years.

The joint report was commissioned by Action for Children, the NSPCC and The Children's Society, to calculate the impact of the recession and austerity measures on vulnerable children for the first time.

They found that a large number of families were struggling with problems such as unemployment, depression, poor quality housing and poverty, which they said reached to a far greater extent than government estimates suggest.

The charities, which together help more than 400,000 children, are calling on the Government to better protect them from the effects of the recession, sharp cuts to public services and major changes to the tax and benefits system, so youngsters are not put at further risk.

Changes they want to see include integrated policies across government - in particular housing, health, employment, education and welfare - to make sure vulnerable children are better protected and urgent assessment of how any further spending cuts, or tax and benefit reform, could impact on youngsters.

Although the Government's Troubled Families Unit was set up to address some of the problems that vulnerable families face, the charities warn that the impact of the austerity on children has largely been overlooked.

Dame Clare Tickell, chief executive of Action for Children, said: "The Government needs to ensure that children are not the victims of austerity and there is still time to get it right. Children are the future, and it is hugely disappointing that the parents of tomorrow are not being taken care of today. This report clearly shows that children are caught up as the innocent victims in austerity measures, and much more needs to be done to protect them."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "Only by reforming the welfare system and breaking the cycle of worklessness and dependency will we improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities. That is why we are introducing the Universal Credit which will simplify the complex myriad of benefits and lift 350,000 children and 550,000 adults out of poverty."

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