Thursday, 8 September 2011

To work or not to work?

This week the Daycare Trust and Save the Children reported the high cost of childcare especially for poorer families. We can all agree that the route out of poverty is jobs but poorer families are finding it is no longer worth their while staying in work because the cost of childcare can swallow up between a quarter to one half of all their income. And things will get even worse in 2013 when government reimbursement for childcare costs falls from 80% to 70%.

Also National Energy Action published data on fuel poverty this week. A household is deemed to be in fuel poverty if they spend more than 10% of their income on gas and electricity. In 2007 13.2% of all English households were in fuel poverty, that has now risen to 23%. But things are far worse in the North East. Here 18.6% of households were in fuel poverty in 2007, now the figure is 33% - that's one in three households.

According to Save the Children 1.6 million children in the UK are living in severe poverty, that is families whose income is less than £12,000 a year. The reality of life for those families is they may not be able to afford a hot meal every evening, or to heat their home adequately all the time and children may have to go without a warm coat in the winter. 40% of parents in this group are thinking about giving up work. Faced with rising childcare as well as rising food prices and energy costs, they reckon they would be better off living on benefits.

That is not what the Coalition Government wants to hear. Their welfare policy is to put pressure on everyone to be in work and they still have a target inherited from New Labour to end child poverty by 2020. People could find themselves compelled to work but for less and less return. Is that really what we want?

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