Extended school provision

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By David Bradley, Child Poverty Action Group

Child Poverty Action Group press release for GM Poverty ActionSchools have a unique place within their communities. With an extended school day, schools can and do support children’s development and learning, support mental health and wellbeing, mitigate the effects of child poverty, and help prevent poverty by supporting parents to work. These activities have always been a valuable part of school life, but there is an even greater need now to support schools to deliver these services as the pandemic continues to affect the learning of children and the financial circumstances of families. Crucially, the government must provide schools with dedicated funding and a clear long-term vision for delivering these services. Read our briefing on extended schools provision

CPAG is calling on the government to:

  • Provide a statutory framework and strategy with adequate additional, ring-fenced funding so schools in England can provide programmes, activities and services that go beyond the core function of classroom education.
  • Ensure every school has the funding and resources to provide comprehensive before- and after-school care, and holiday provision which is suitable for its pupils and families.
  • Ensure every school can provide additional services that support families in their community with their wider needs eg, dedicated mental health and wellbeing practitioners, and welfare rights advisers.

CPAG estimates that it would cost the government £2.6 billion a year to fund every primary school, and £525 million a year to fund every secondary school in England to deliver core extended schools activities, and an additional £500 million to provide mental health practitioners and family support workers. We estimate that it would cost £10 million a year to fund an extended schools coordinator in each local authority across England.

Find out more about the Child Poverty Action Group and this campaign here


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Covid-19: Half a million miss out on UC

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Confusion and stigma: half a million people missing out on Universal Credit as COVID-19 hit

A Welfare at a (Social) Distance study, funded by the Health Foundation, highlights those who were eligible for Universal Credit at the start of COVID-19 but did not claim it – despite often having sharp falls in income and struggling financially.

The report by the University of Salford, working in collaboration with the University of Kent and the University of Leeds, the LSE and Deakin University, Australia, estimates that around half a million (an estimated 430,000-560,000) people who were eligible for Universal Credit during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic did not claim it.

There were many (an estimated 280,000-390,000) people who wrongly thought they were ineligible for Universal Credit. Some people had actively considered applying for benefits and decided they weren’t eligible, but mostly people just had a ‘sense’ that they were not eligible for anything.

There were also a quarter of a million (220,000) people who thought they were eligible for Universal Credit but didn’t want to claim it with 59% stating the perceived hassle of applying and the challenge of figuring out if they were eligible the contributing factor to not applying. A further sizeable minority (27%) didn’t claim Universal Credit because of benefits stigma.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, income had fallen amongst a majority of those not accessing Universal Credit and to make ends meet, people relied on savings, friends and family or borrowed from banks.

Nearly half reported severe financial strain – either falling behind on housing costs, not keeping up with bills and debts, or not being able to afford fresh fruit and vegetables daily. A further two-thirds were unable to deal with an unexpected expense like replacing a fridge and more than one-in-six had skipped a meal in the previous two weeks because they could not afford to eat (equivalent to 80,000 people).

Those not taking-up Universal Credit also had worse mental health on average than the general public.

Dr Ben Baumberg Geiger, lead author of the report and a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent, said: “There are probably about half a million people who are entitled to Universal Credit but do not claim it. These people are largely invisible because the Department for Work and Pensions no longer estimates how many people are affected – something we recommend that they start doing for UC, just as they used to do for other benefits”.

“Some of these people say they don’t need benefits – but others don’t claim because they don’t understand that they are eligible, hope that things will get better soon, or are put off by the perceived ‘hassle’ or stigma of claiming. It is therefore no surprise that many of these people are experiencing poor mental health and financial strain, some of them severely”.

Professor Lisa Scullion on Welfare for GM Poverty Action

Professor Lisa Scullion

Professor Lisa Scullion, Co-Director of SHUSU at the University of Salford and project lead, said: “Overall, the benefits system has responded well to the unprecedented demands which a year of different lockdown measures has brought. However, historic weaknesses remain.

“It is clear that there are relatively high levels of need amongst people who do not claim the benefits that they are entitled to. The Department for Work and Pensions should publish its own ‘benefit take-up strategy’ for the UK as a whole, aiming to ensure that people can claim the rights benefits as quickly as possible, correct misperceptions about the benefits system, and attempt to address benefits stigma”.

Hardeep Aiden, Research Manager at the Health Foundation, adds: “The £20 uplift and temporary removal of sanctions have gone someway to improve the experience of many claimants during the pandemic, but more targeted support and an easing of the conditions for claiming Universal Credit must be implemented.

“This would reduce the stress and anxiety around claiming, helping to improve both mental and physical health among this financially vulnerable group and, crucially, would encourage those who need to claim to do so”.

The full report is available here


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Claimants to challenge DWP in the High Court

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Employment Support Allowance claimants to challenge DWP in the High Court

Excerpts from coverage by Osbornes Law and JRF

The High Court is to decide whether it was lawful of the Government not to give nearly 2million people on disability benefits the same £1040 a-year increase that it has given Universal Credit (UC) recipients.

At the beginning of the pandemic the Chancellor announced a £20 per week increase to the standard allowance of Universal Credit, but this vital increase to support was not extended to those on so called ‘legacy benefits’, the majority of whom are disabled, sick or carers.

Two recipients of Employment Support Allowance (ESA) have challenged this difference in treatment by way of an application to the High Court for judicial review. They argue that is it discriminatory and unjustified. The High Court has agreed it is arguably unlawful and will decide the case later this year.

Despite them having an equivalent entitlement to the ‘standard allowance’ of UC, simply because they were in a different part of the system, 1.9 million people on ESA have been without this increase, which many have called a ‘lifeline’, for the last 13 months. Claimants of Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance have also been excluded.

Universal Credit is slowly replacing ‘legacy benefits’ but the process will not be complete until 2024 at the earliest. In the meantime, those on legacy benefits face all the same financial pressures as those on UC, and yet the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions has decided not to treat them in the same way.

William Ford, Osbornes Law solicitor for the Claimants, commented: “This unfairness calls for a properly evidenced justification, particularly as almost 2 million disabled people are disproportionately affected by this decision and the pandemic generally.

“Thus far the Government has failed to provide any objectively verifiable reason for the difference in treatment of people in essentially identical circumstances.”

Helen Barnard, Director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, who have been campaigning on behalf of legacy benefit claimants as part of their #KeeptheLifeline campaign said: “Everyone should have access to a strong social security system that protects them from harm when they are struggling to stay afloat.

“Disabled people and carers already face a greater risk of poverty, so there can be no justification for offering them less support than people claiming Universal Credit simply because they are in a different part of the system.

“Discrimination has no place in our social security system and every day we fail to act undermines public trust and intensifies hardship. Ministers must right this injustice by urgently extending the £20 increase to legacy benefits.”

The full press release by Osbornes Law can be read here

For further details of Universal Credit claimants in Greater Manchester, see GMPA’s Poverty Monitor page on Social Security here


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Here to Help Campaign

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Raising awareness of the financial and wellbeing support available from grant-giving charities – ACO’s Here to Help campaign

By Hannah Page, Marketing & Communications Manager, The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO)

ACO logo for GM Poverty ActionAs the Covid-19 pandemic continues, we sadly anticipate more people will be plunged into poverty due to the economic impacts of the crisis as we expect further job losses and redundancies once the government’s Job Retention (furlough) scheme ends. We also expect more people may need mental health and wellbeing support due to the impacts lockdown and long-term isolation has caused.

The Association of Charitable Organisations (ACO), the umbrella body for benevolent funds (charities that give financial support to individuals), is therefore running the Here to Help campaign to highlight the support available from benevolent charities for those facing financial hardship, who may be struggling to afford basic essentials, or are facing mental health struggles during this challenging time.

While people tend to know the big-name charities, many are unaware there are hundreds of these benevolent funds operating throughout the UK to support individuals and their families through offering financial grants or other support services. Grants can be awarded in all kinds of circumstances, and requests are judged on a case-by-case basis, but some of the most common reasons include help paying for day-to-day essentials (food, bills etc.), furniture and white goods, disability adaptions, childcare costs, covering bankruptcy/insolvency fees and more.

Other examples of support awarded throughout the pandemic by these charities include paying for interview clothes where someone was made redundant, support with funeral costs, IT equipment so children could continue studies from home and paying for someone’s internet as libraries closed. Many benevolent funds also provide a range of holistic support services for free to those in need, from counselling services and helplines, online wellbeing materials, to sleep therapy, addiction support and advice services, such as debt or benefits advice.

In terms of finding the right benevolent fund to support someone, most have a certain group they help. Many are occupational funds, supporting those that have ever worked in a certain profession (including former employees) and their families. Many occupations have a benevolent fund, from hospitality workers, retail staff and carers through to architects, bankers and former miners.

There are also benevolent funds specifically for older people, children, disabled people, homeless people and women. Some benevolent charities help those that live in a certain region of the UK and there are general grant-giving charities that will award grants and furniture items to those that don’t fit the criteria of other benevolent funds.

To find the right benevolent fund the Turn2us Grants Search is a simple tool that helps people find support they may be eligible for. By someone filling out a few details about themselves (or behalf of someone), such as location, age and any previous jobs, the Turn2us Grants Search’s database finds all benevolent charities that person could apply for support from.

Hannah Page ACO for GM Poverty Action

Hannah Page

The ACO has also made a short guide to support available from benevolent charities, which is available on its website  to download. The ACO is encouraging organisations working closely with the public to share this guide with individuals that approach them looking for help.

For more information about the Here to Help campaign or the ACO please visit our website or contact Hannah Page (Marketing & Communications Manager) by email or call 020 7255 4496.


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Cash Perks

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Innovative solution getting cash to hardship grant beneficiaries

By Gareth Evans, Director, GRE Consulting

The pandemic has focused attention on the importance of local safety-nets in providing crisis grants for struggling households. Many councils have redesigned or reinstated their Local Welfare Assistance schemes to give emergency support for food, fuel and other essential household goods and items.

The recent GMPA report, which examines such schemes across the region, backs the growing calls for a cash-first approach to these hardship grants. It is shown to maximise dignity, autonomy, choice and ultimately impact, compared to the provision of food parcels or vouchers.

A new payment solution, Cash Perks is helping Councils, housing associations and local/national charities overcome the challenges of cash disbursement to those in financial difficulties – especially where clients might not have bank accounts but more commonly are overdrawn.

Gareth Evans, a leading researcher and anti-poverty campaigner who launched Cash Perks explains: “The idea came about when we were helping design an emergency food and fuel scheme for one of the country’s largest housing associations. We recognised the limitations of other payment options to get cash immediately to those that need it, so went out and created a solution.”

ATM photo for cash first for GM Poverty ActionThe technology enables organisations to securely send payments between £10 and £500 to their beneficiaries by SMS text message. Recipients can instantly collect their allocated funds 24/7 at over 17,000 ATMs nationally – all without the need for a card or bank account.

One local authority that has already embraced the facility is London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, which originally piloted it to send hardship payments for those without bank accounts. But following its success, the Council has just used it to disburse almost £250,000 of its Covid Winter Grant Scheme allocation in individual payments to its approved households. “It’s really straight forward and it’s a fast, efficient, flexible system that supports us to implement frequently announced new government initiatives,” explains Donna Radley, Head of Benefits. The Council’s Children’s Services directorate has now adopted it to replace the myriad of petty-cash payments that it makes to clients.

Anthony, one of the recipients of the Councils support explained the difference the emergency cash payments had made, “This has literally saved my life. I have had such a bad couple of years and this went some way to helping me eat properly and getting myself back to myself after the death of my son in 2019 and losing my job and then lockdown. I can’t thank you enough.”

With no setup costs or monthly charges, just a fixed fee per transaction based on the amount sent and usage volumes, it enables organisations of all sizes to access the innovative technology.

Wimbledon Guild, a small benevolent charity that operates in South London has used Cash Perks to continue offering its small emergency grants throughout Covid despite its offices being closed. Vanessa Robins, the charity’s Welfare Manager says, “It is a fast and convenient way to get cash urgently out to clients at little cost to the charity, especially for those without access to a bank account or who have overdrafts where transferred cash would be swallowed up.  It reduces admin time and fewer staff need to be involved in the transactions, although there is a strong audit trail.”

Find out more here.


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Cost of learning in lockdown

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March 2021 update

By David Bradley, England Development Manager (Cost of the School Day), Child Poverty Action Group

For the majority of children and young people up and down the country, school doorsChild Poverty Action Group press release for GM Poverty Action closed once more in January after just one day back in the classroom. Families were faced both with the prospect of home schooling children and with the challenges this presented for their household finances. As with the first school closures last year, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Children North East (CNE) wanted to hear directly from parents, carers, children and young people about what home learning was like for them. While the findings provide a snapshot of life in January and February 2021, the insights remain critical in helping us to understand how we can recover from the impact of the pandemic.Children Noeth East logo for GM Poverty Action

Parents and carers told us that they were struggling financially going into this lockdown and subsequently faced increasing costs and pressures which, despite their best efforts, have affected their children’s experiences of learning during lockdown. Many low-income families faced the impossible choice of prioritising who gets access to scarce resources like laptops, bandwidth and one-to-one supervision. 35 per cent of low income families, who responded to our survey, were still missing essential resources for learning and children in receipt of free school meals were more likely to report sharing devices at home and using mobile phones to complete schoolwork.

In spite of these challenges, we heard about the extraordinary lengths that parents and carers were going to in order to help their children continue learning. We heard of mums waking up early to write out worksheets by hand and parents walking to school every day to pick up work packs. Families described how school staff worked tirelessly to deliver the best possible education in the circumstances, going above and beyond to try and bridge the gaps in resources where they could. This included lending out laptops, delivering printouts, supplying stationery and adjusting teaching to help all learners join in. Local councils also played an important role in getting additional support and resources to schools and families.

It’s clear from the findings that many families need greater financial security to help them support children’s learning, stay afloat and recover from the impact of the pandemic. As pupils ease back in to school, we need to recognise the role that family income plays in a child’s education and shape our responses accordingly. Families described facing difficult decisions around home learning because they didn’t have everything they needed to support their children. This ‘permanent battle’ caused stress and guilt for parents and often left less time to focus on learning. Any education recovery plan should place an emphasis on anti-poverty interventions in schools such as expanding the eligibility for free school meals to boost family finances and implementing extended schools provisions, to focus on pupil’s mental health and wellbeing and support parents in to work.

The challenges and inequalities faced by low income families may have been made more acute by the pandemic, but they existed before COVID-19 and they’ll continue to exist in our education system long after the crisis unless the government, local authorities, and schools work together to implement poverty aware policies and practices. During the autumn term, many schools worked hard to relieve cost pressures on families. For example, families told us that relaxed uniform policies had helped ease pressure on household budgets, allowing greater flexibility on where items could be purchased. Lots of schools had helped to provide additional items, such as extra stationery, face masks and pencil cases that were required to help keep people safe from the spread of Covid-19. However, the majority of families told us that they hadn’t been supported in this way and many said that school costs had risen compared to previous years.

David Bradley, CPAG for GM Poverty Action

David Bradley, England Development Manager (Cost of the School Day), Child Poverty Action Group

Through being poverty-aware and considering how policies and practices may impact households on a low income, schools and local authorities can continue to play an important role in relieving pressures on families, removing poverty-related stigma and helping to ensure children have everything they need to take part in education whether at school or at home.

You can find more information on how to achieve this through our Cost of the School Day project here


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We cannot allow the pandemic to set gender parity back decades.

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By Dr Andrea Barry, Senior Analyst, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) logo for GM Poverty Action
Before the pandemic, women were more likely to be stuck on low pay, more likely to be working in lower paid sectors and lower paid roles in higher paid sectors and trapped in underemployment due to childcare and transport barriers. Furthermore, before Covid-19, women already had a higher poverty rate. For working-age women in a family or household, their poverty rate was 21%. This is higher than the men in the family (19%). Covid-19 has made this worse, as those lower paid roles are the least likely to be allowed to work from home. Pre Covid-19, fifty-six percent of mothers made a change to their employment due to childcare, with 3 in 10 mums reducing their hours. This is simply unacceptable that women are unable to stay in employment simply due to unpaid labour.
Gender parity (JRF) graph for GM poverty Action
When asked, women reported a reduction in paid work and further inequities in unpaid labour during the pandemic. According to the TUC, an unacceptable 7 in 10 women who applied for furlough were turned down. Nine in 10 have experienced higher anxiety and stress levels. Single mothers, particularly, are at breaking point according to Gingerbread. Ninety percent of single parents are women, and they are bearing the brunt of the effect of the pandemic.

The impact on finances cannot be ignored, as single mothers were struggling before the pandemic and this has only continued with 18% of single parents expecting their future financial situation will be worse and 13% are behind on their bills (this compares to 14% and 8% for couple parents). However, women, with or without children, were more likely to report they were behind in their bills during and before the pandemic, highlighting the precarity amongst women before the storm. Sadly, they were also more likely to report being made unemployed, whereas men were more likely to report being furloughed. To solve UK poverty, it is essential that women can participate in the labour market in the same fashion as men. A lifetime of lower earnings means women who are single pensioners have a higher poverty rate than men in the same situation.

In this discussion, we must also acknowledge the intersection of gender and age, as young women are particularly hit hard as they are 25% more likely to be furloughed and 87% more likely to lose their job. While this reflects the sectors they work in, with 4 in 10 young women having worked in retail or hospitality, it is still a stark reminder that all women have been impacted in different ways, and that again, the recovery must address these inequities. The unemployment rate for young women is 11.1%, compared to all women at 4.7%.

The impact of the pandemic on Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) women has also been a harsh reality over the last year. The work and pay inequities that impact many BAME women have been exacerbated during the pandemic with stark results. In fact, according to the TUC, BAME women are twice as likely to be in low-paid work and occupations that expose them to a high risk of Covid-19 infections. Around one in eight BAME women are employed in insecure roles, compared with one in 16 white women and one in 18 white men. These positions are low paid, but also high-risk. This is unacceptable and must be addressed.

Thankfully at the beginning of the pandemic, the government recognised that it was important to act before more people were pulled into poverty. By implementing the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and recently, people on Universal Credit have been kept afloat during the pandemic. However, this is a temporary solution to alleviating poverty in the UK. In addition to making the lifeline permanent:

• We need a focus on creating new, good quality jobs across the country.
• Tackle known barriers to the jobs market such as issues with transport, unaffordable childcare, and lack of flexible work.

Dr Andrea Barry, JRF for GM Poverty Action

Dr Andrea Barry, Senior Analyst, Joseph Rowntree Foundation

We cannot allow another International Women’s Day pass with more women gripped by poverty. It is urgent to act immediately, so that we can continue our previous strides in gender equality.  The full blog is available here.


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No Going Back

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By Helen Walker, Policy & Influence Worker, Macc

Gorton and Levenshulme highlights the need for a radical approach to building resilient communities that can transform people’s lives

Representatives of voluntary sector organisations and local groups in Gorton and Levenshulme have shared their experiences and views of working at a neighbourhood level during the Covid-19 crisis in a new Manchester Community Central (Macc) report that was published on Monday March 8th, 2021. Macc is the organisation that supports the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector in the city of Manchester.

Entitled, No Going Back: Gorton and Levenshulme, the publication gives a platform to 16 local organisations to highlight some of the local voices in a city neighbourhood that don’t often get a hearing. The collection of inspirational stories and quotes focuses on Gorton and Levenshulme, a community area that has faced its fair share of challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to explore the experience and views of community organisations working in neighbourhoods during the Covid crisis,” said Mike Wild, Macc’s Chief Executive. “The Gorton and Levenshulme organisations we feature in No Going Back show local communities getting together to organise vital support during the pandemic.”

In total, 16 organisations contributed to the report including two community associations, a bowling club, an organisation that teaches circus skills (yes, and you may be surprised why that matters!), a youth service, and an organisation that runs classes to reduce stress. The stories feature work with young people, South Asian women, refugees, migrants, people with dementia and older neighbours. The insight they share covers topics from how to make a new home to how to address health inequalities, how to set up a rapid volunteering scheme, how to organise food banks and why we shouldn’t need them.

“The experiences of the local voluntary organisations featured in No Going Back – Gorton and Levenshulme offer a glimpse of how communities can come together to tackle the health and social care crisis in Manchester, a crisis that has been building over the last 20 years and worsened by many years of austerity,” said Mike Wild,  “It is time to take a truly radical approach, one based in a practical and realistic idea of community, the kind of approach illustrated in every story that is highlighted in this publication,” he said.

Mike continued: “It is time to stop remaking the same old solutions in the hope that perhaps they will work this time. The response to the pandemic shows that there are other ways of organising help, support and care in communities: look at the diversity of organisations, of people and approaches in this report. There is an opportunity and an appetite to transform the way that statutory services operate in neighbourhoods so they are able to work alongside local VCSE organisations, faith organisations and businesses and make the best use of the talents, skills and assets of all.”

The report is available on Macc’s website. You can follow updates on Twitter using the hashtag #NoGoingBackMcr.


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Childcare costs

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Childcare costs rise as providers struggle to remain sustainable during the pandemic

By Hannah May Parlett, Coram Family and Childcare

Britain’s parents are paying 4% more for childcare for children under two, and 5% more for children aged two than they were one year ago, according to the country’s most comprehensive annual survey of childcare costs. Coram Family and Childcare’s 21st annual Childcare Survey finds that parents have faced childcare costs rising well ahead of inflation and are now paying an average of £138 per week – over £7,000 per year – for a part-time nursery place for a child under two (in the North West the figure is £126.43).

Childcare providers are struggling to remain sustainable during the crisis, with 39% of local authorities in England seeing providers in their area raise their prices and 32% reporting that some providers have reduced the number of free early education entitlement places they offer. Furthermore, 30% have seen providers increase the number of children looked after by each staff member.

Despite over a third (35%) of local authorities in England reporting a rise in the number of providers in their area permanently closing in the last year, the majority have not yet seen an increase in shortages of childcare. Over two-thirds (68%) of local authorities in England reported having enough childcare available to meet demand for parents working full time, compared to 56% last year. However this is most likely to be due to decreased demand from families during the pandemic, rather than increases in the supply of childcare, and it is yet to be seen whether there will still be enough childcare places if, and when demand returns to pre-pandemic levels.

In addition, availability of childcare for certain groups is little improved on last year, with less than one in four local areas in England reporting enough childcare for 12 to 14 year olds (13%), parents working atypical hours (16%) and disabled children (25%). These shortages for disabled children exist despite the fact that fewer disabled children are using childcare – a third (31%) of local areas thought that fewer children with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) were using childcare than last year.

Coram logo for GM Poverty ActionMegan Jarvie, Head of Coram Family and Childcare, said: “The pandemic has reminded us all of the vital importance of childcare, in enabling parents to work, boosting children’s learning and narrowing the gap between disadvantaged children and their peers. However the crisis has also exacerbated the issues that exist in the sector. For too many families the system simply isn’t working, and they are left struggling to make work pay after childcare costs or are forced out of the workplace entirely.

“There remains a risk that many providers could close, leaving more families struggling to find the childcare that they need, or that costs could further increase, at a time when family finances have already been stretched by the pandemic. Financial support from the Government has helped childcare providers to stay afloat, but we don’t know what the effects will be when this support ends. We’re calling for the Government to take urgent steps to improve the system now and in the longer-term so that every child can access the high-quality childcare that supports their early development.”

The Childcare Survey 2021 sets out actions that governments can take in the short-term to fix urgent problems in the system:

•  Launch a funding review for the free early education entitlements to make sure that funding levels are sufficient to support the delivery of high-quality education and care, including, but not limited to, issues resulting from Covid-19.

•  Reform Universal Credit so it does not lock parents out of work, by increasing the maximum amount of childcare costs paid under Universal Credit and move to upfront payments for childcare.

•  Extend the 30 hours free childcare provision for three and four year olds in England and Wales to families where parents are in training, to help boost their employment opportunities.

•  Double the early years pupil premium, to boost outcomes for the most disadvantaged children.

•  Re-allocate any underspend budget for Tax-Free Childcare to other parts of the childcare system – prioritising the most disadvantaged children.

For a copy of the full report please contact Emma Lamberton, Communications Manager, Coram.


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Action for Children: The fight goes on over Universal Credit uplift

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Last week’s Budget announcement that Universal Credit will be cut by £20 a week in October is a setback for families. Imran Hussain, Director of Policy & Campaigns at Action for Children outlines why this choice hurts children – and how the decision could still be reversed.

The Budget announcement that Universal Credit will be cut by £20 a week in October is a setback for families – it is estimated that 2.5 million families with children currently on Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit will miss out on a combined total of £1.3 billion this year.

Here are five reasons why taking more than £500 in the next financial year (£1000 a year afterwards) from low income families will hurt families with children:

  1. It would mean turning back to benefit levels that are low historically and internationally – UK unemployment benefits are the weakest in the OECD, after a decade of cuts that have hit in-work and out-of-work benefits.
  2. Cutting Universal Credit will see child poverty – already high – rising sharply in the next few years, according to the Resolution Foundation. The only year expected to show a fall in child poverty will be 2020-21, the year of the increased Universal Credit rate.
  3. Even with the £20 increase, many families Action for Children works with have struggled financially. Making the families we work with £1000 a year worse off is going to damage childhoods and life chances.
  4. Nor does stripping back support later this year make sense when we know unemployment is not going to return to pre-pandemic levels for some time. Last week the Office for Budget Responsibility said higher unemployment will be with us for some time.
  5. That’s unemployment; but there are also many families who are seeing – or will see in the next couple of years – significant cuts to their pay and hours. Cuts to Universal Credit hits the low paid, not just those out of work.

But there is good reason to believe the battle is not over, that the Government could end up deciding that it won’t cut Universal Credit:

  1. The strength of the campaign pushed the Government further than it wanted. Action for Children’s report on its Emergency Fundwas among the first to argue against the cut, but many others, not just those working on poverty issues, have also made the case. And we know that GMPA has been adding its voice to this campaign.
  2. There’s also concern within the ranks of the Government’s own MPs. In January 2021, the Government was so worried about a rebellion on the issue it ordered its MPs to abstain on a vote on extending the uplift.
  3. Tim Pitt,a former adviser to ex Chancellor Philip Hammond, argues that the Government should strengthen the safety net because its voting coalition is now so different than in the past. Cutting Universal Credit is pain that would be felt by those in ‘Red Wall’ seats which formed the bedrock of its majority.
  4. Crucially, public opinion on benefit levels is changing, with more people now agreeing that benefit levels are low.
  5. Fundamentally, the pandemic has revealed that our support for the low paid and for those who lose their jobs is simply not good enough. It’s self-evidently a view the Government accepted when it increased Universal Credit.
Imran Hussain for GM Poverty Action

Imran Hussain

Money matters for childhoods, life chances and the fight against poverty. That’s what the research shows and what anyone working with families knows.

So, it is encouraging in the sense that the battle is not over and there’s growing recognition in politics and society that we need to strengthen social security support.

A longer version of this article is available on the Action for Children website.



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