Socialist Worker

Tories, not parents, to blame for child poverty

by Viv Smith
Issue No. 2231

The Tories blame ordinary people for their own poverty to justify benefit cuts. They paint a picture of parents as feckless scroungers who can’t be bothered to find a job and help their children.

But a new report shows this is a lie—and uncovers shocking levels of poverty among working people.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) report shows that in 2008-09 more than one fifth of people in work were living below the poverty line.

A full 22 percent of workers are living in poverty.

And children living in poverty are more likely to live in families where a parent works—58 percent, or 2.1

million—than in one where no one has a job.

The JRF report shows that simply getting more people into work won’t eliminate poverty.

And, even if it could, there simply aren’t enough jobs.

Yet the Tories are determined to press ahead with attacks on benefits that will push more people into poverty and make poor people’s lives harder.


Disgracefully they will use a report on child poverty released by Labour MP Frank Field, who is working for the government as a “poverty tsar”, as ammunition in their war.

Anyone who hoped that having a Labour Party member overseeing poverty policy would limit the assault on the poor will be sorely disappointed.

Field’s report laments that, by age five, a huge gulf already exists between children from poor and well‑off backgrounds.

But Field blames individual parents for this. He says, “Perhaps more important is not the money or the job your parents have but how good they are as parents in making sure you can fly when you are in school.”

In reality it is hardship, poverty and lack of resources that fail poor children, not their parents.

Co-author of the JRF report Tom MacInnes said that the drop in the level of child poverty in workless households is “almost certainly related to the rise in both child benefit and child tax credit in 2008.

“Without the substantial increases in these benefits, the numbers of children in poverty would be around half a million higher.” These are the benefits the Tories are cutting.


A lone parent with two children, working full time in London on just over the minimum wage of £11,000 will lose £1,005 of her tax credit entitlement after the new measures are introduced.

 The cuts also reduce the amount of childcare costs that can be claimed through working tax credit.

Many women will have to leave work because they simply cannot afford to continue.

Slashing benefits will not encourage the poor to improve their lives.

Poverty scars working class children’s lives. Poor children can expect to die seven years earlier than richer ones.

They are born smaller and are more likely to die in infancy.

The government says there isn’t money for benefits and public services.

Yet the banks were bailed out to the tune of £1.4 trillion. And the thousand richest people in Britain got 30 percent richer in the last year.

Their wealth rose by £77 billion—enough to wipe out around half the budget ­deficit.

The money is there, but the Tories don’t want to spend it on ordinary people.

Some are even blaming benefit claimants for the budget deficit. Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith last week called benefit claimants a “block…who do not add anything to the greatness of this country”.

Instead of pinning the blame for the economic crisis on the real culprits, he said that those on benefits were “a huge part of the reason we have this massive deficit”.

We have to smash this government of the rich.

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