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Equality watchdog says many children ‘condemned to start life in poverty’

The Equality and Human Rights Commission found Government reforms would hit women, ethnic minorities and disabled people.

Many children “will be condemned to start life in poverty” as a result of Government changes to taxes and social security, a major new report has warned.

Watchdog the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found women, ethnic minorities and disabled people would all be adversely affected as a result of reforms by ministers.

The group’s research analysed the cumulative impact of changes brought in from 2010 to 2018 on various groups across society in 2021/22.

It found that an extra 1.5 million children will be living in households below the relative poverty line, with the child poverty rate for those in lone parent households increasing from 37% to more than 62%.

The research also suggests households with three or more children will see average losses of around £5,600.

David Isaac, chairman of the commission, said: “It’s disappointing to discover that the reforms we have examined negatively affect the most disadvantaged in our society.

“It’s even more shocking that children – the future generation – will be the hardest hit and that so many will be condemned to start life in poverty.

“We cannot let this continue if we want a fairer Britain.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission report

EHRC highlighted other impacts, including:

– Households with at least one disabled adult and a disabled child will lose more than £6,500 a year, or 13% of their annual income

– Bangladeshi households will lose around £4,400 a year, in comparison to white households or those with adults of differing ethnicity, which will lose between £500 and £600 on average

– Lone parents will lose an average of £5,250 a year, almost one-fifth of their annual income

– Women will lose about £400 per year on average, while men will only lose £30

The losses are largely driven by changes to the welfare system, in particular the freeze in working-age benefit rates, changes to disability benefits and reductions in Universal Credit rates.

Mr Isaac said: “We are keen to work together with Government to achieve its vision of a Britain that works for everyone.

“To achieve this outcome it is essential that a full cumulative impact analysis is undertaken of all current and future tax and social security policies.”

Ministers have repeatedly faced pressure to produce an overarching impact assessment of all policy changes in areas such as welfare.

EHRC has also called on the Government to reconsider some of its existing policies and review the level of certain welfare benefits.

Neil Heslop, CEO of the Leonard Cheshire disability charity, said the findings “paint an unacceptable picture of Britain in 2018 but are no surprise to disabled people’s families”.

He added: “Drops of up to £10,000 in income for disabled families are catastrophic in terms of the ability to pay for heating, food or essential travel.

“Meanwhile, many face barriers and discrimination accessing essential benefits and support they are entitled to. The Government must take notice of this report and act urgently.”

A Government spokesman said: “Our commitment to equality and fairness has seen child poverty drop, inequality drop and female employment reach a record high.

“We spend £90 billion a year on welfare to support those who need it most and this report does not take into account many of the important changes that Government has introduced since 2010.

“Automatic enrolment pension saving and near record employment are just two issues which contribute enormously to people’s lives, but are not reflected in the analysis.”

Since 2014 the number of people in absolute poverty has reduced by half a million, and average household incomes are at a record high.

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