Thousands of children in poverty because parents can't earn enough, study shows

Study finds 88,000 children are growing up poor due to their parents facing one barrier which prevents them from working entirely.

Thousands of children in poverty because parents can’t earn enough, study shows iStock

About 131,000 Scottish children in poverty are trapped in hardship due to their parents facing barriers to earning more, research suggests.

The study led by Action for Children found 88,000 children are growing up poor due to their parents facing one barrier which prevents them from working entirely, or from taking on an adequate amount of work.

A total of 38,000 families are facing two barriers, and 5,000 face three or more.

Researchers said the findings challenge UK Government claims that the best way to stop children growing up in poverty “is to ensure they do not grow up in a workless household”.

Action for Children said mitigating circumstances such as long-term sickness, disabilities and caring responsibilities mean work is often not a possible route out of poverty.

The children’s charity says there is an estimated 229,000 children living in relative poverty in Scotland, meaning 57% of families are facing at least one barrier to work.

The research found the major barriers these families face include already being in full-time work, with around 26,000 children in poverty despite one or both parents working full-time.

This includes 15,000 children in families where both parents work full-time.

Around 59,000 children were found to be living in poverty with at least one disabled parent, and an additional 10,000 children live in families where at least one child in their household is disabled as well as a parent.

Around 57% of families are facing at least one barrier to work, research foundiStock

A total of 26,000 children are living in poverty where at least one child is under two in the household, and 10,000 children are in single parent families in poverty where the parent is working part-time with a child aged two to 10.

Fiona Steel, national director for Scotland at Action for Children, said the research shows “working alone isn’t always a passport out of poverty”.

She added: “In this Westminster election year, there is still serious progress to be made on tackling child poverty.

“We need further research into these challenges to find more targeted solutions, particularly for those families facing poverty where one or both parents has a disability.

“While many of the levers to alleviate this situation reside with Westminster, it’s essential the Scottish Government redoubles its efforts to ensure Scotland is a fair work nation and to remove these barriers faced by families.

“Through collaborative action between the Scottish and UK government, we need reform to strengthen the social security system and tackle the barriers to work for the families continually trapped in poverty”.

A UK Government spokesperson cited recent data which showed the number of children in absolute poverty in Scotland has fallen by 3% from 2021-22.

The spokesperson said the Government is set to increase the living wage to £11.44 an hour, and has broadened its support for parents on universal credit who are actively looking for jobs.

They added: “There are 1.7 million fewer people living in absolute poverty compared to 2010, including 400,000 children, as we continue to support families with cost-of-living support worth on average £3,700 per household.

“Children are five times less likely to experience poverty living in a household where all adults work, compared to those in workless households, which is why this Government has reduced the number of workless households by almost 700,000 since 2010.

“We know work is the best route out of poverty, which is why we have also raised the national living wage and are investing billions through our back to work plan to break down barriers to work, while expanding our childcare offer so even more people can secure long-term financial security.”

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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