By Nick Clark
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Tory policies push over one million children of key workers into poverty

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Issue 2763
NHS workers protest against low pay outside Downing Street earlier this year
NHS workers protest against low pay outside Downing Street earlier this year (Pic: Guy Smallman)

More than a million children of key workers are living in poverty, according to research commissioned by the TUC union federation.

And—says the TUC—Tory policies are likely to force even more into poverty.

The research found that one in five children of key workers in Britain live below the official poverty line—rising to nearly a third in the north east of England.

The shocking finding was based on the government’s own definition of key worker. The TUC said that low pay and insecure hours—particularly in jobs such as care, delivery and supermarkets—were the main causes of key worker family poverty.

It added that high housing costs also cut the amount of money key workers have to spend on food and bills. And the meagre amount of money from state benefit Universal Credit (UC) was not enough to guarantee their families avoid poverty.

What’s more, the TUC said, Tory plans to cut UC for low-income families by £20 per week in October will increase child poverty rates. It added that the government has capped pay rises for many key workers in the public sector—meaning a real-terms pay cut due to inflation.

The proportion of key workers’ children in poverty was highest in the north east of England, at just over 29 percent.

Some 27 percent were in poverty in London, 25 percent in both the West Midlands and in Yorkshire and the Humber, and 23 percent in Wales.

The figures were calculated using information from the government’s Labour Force Survey, which studies employment in Britain, and its Family Resources Survey, which collects information on household living circumstances.


It’s a damning insight into the reality of life in Tory Britain.

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady asked prime minister Boris Johnson raise the national minimum wage to £10 an hour, and to end the public sector pay freeze. She also asked him to cancel cuts to UC and to increase child benefit above inflation each year.

O’Grady tried to appeal to Johnson by arguing that high levels of poverty will damage bosses.

“If we put more money in the pockets of working families, their spending will help our businesses and high streets recover,” she said.

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“It’s the fuel in the tank that our economy needs.”

It’s weak to pretend that trade unions have the ear of Johnson and the Tories, or to assume they are interested in partnership with trade union leaders.

The Tories have spent more than a decade assaulting working class people at the demands of the bosses and bankers who support them. The trade union resistance to them has been appallingly lacking .

Unions affiliated to the TUC organise key workers in many of the industries the TUC study highlights. Its findings should be a reason to launch a fightback—not to appeal to the Tories’ good nature.

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