Universal Credit and its effect on Child Poverty

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2013 National Women's Conference
17 October 2012
Carried as Amended

Conference is aware of the growing issue of child poverty. There are 3.6 million children in poverty in the UK today, that’s more than 1 in 4 of our children.

Although the issue of child poverty affects working families, 90% of single parent families are women and are therefore more likely to be welfare dependant. The government’s welfare reforms and the introduction of the Universal Credit will make up to 150,000 of the country’s poorest parents up to £68 a week worse off; this will push our children further into poverty.

The government says the aim of Universal Credit is to ensure that work pays more than benefit. But research carried out by Save The Children, suggests that for some, especially single parents, the welfare reforms will have the opposite effect. The Government does not recognise that lone parents legitimately stand outside of the paid labour market as a result of their caring responsibilities.

Conference is aware that Universal Credit is loaded against lone parents who are primarily women. As the biggest public sector trade union where 70% of our members are women we need to address this issue. The introduction of Universal Credit will have an effect on many of our women members and their children, pushing already poor families further into poverty and making many more families live in a state of poverty.

Every child deserves a chance; the chance to have a happy childhood and a bright future. Poverty blights childhoods. Growing up in poverty means being cold and going hungry. It affects a child’s social, educated, psychological and physical development.

Conference further notes that the government has announced its intention to introduce new under-occupancy rules, the so-called “bedroom tax” with effect from April 2013. This change will see housing benefit cut for people in social homes with unoccupied bedrooms – including parents who share care of their child, or whose children visit but are not part of the household. Not only will benefit be cut to these families, but they may be put at risk if forced to accept an additional household member to avoid paying the tax; losing their home or further food and fuel poverty if they are unable to meet the shortfall in rent.

Conference calls on the national women’s committee to:

1) Work with UNISON Labour Link to lobby regional and national governments to raise awareness of child poverty in relation to Universal Credit.

2) Work with Unison Welfare and Thompson’s Solicitors to ensure members are aware of services available to those living in poverty.

3) Work with regional women’s committee to ensure that support services for members such as Unison Welfare are promoted in their regions.