Congress condemns the rapid increase in child poverty across a decade of austerity. Research shows 33 per cent of all children in the UK live in poverty.
Congress recognises that Covid-19 has shone a light on the severe inequalities that exist in our society on the poverty gap in terms of employment, pay, housing and access to services, including the ‘digital divide’.
Low pay and insecure employment have condemned 10 children in every class of 30 to “being locked into a cycle of poverty from which most will have great difficulty escaping” (Prof. Alston, UN Special Rapporteur).
Congress notes Black children are two to three times more likely to be trapped in persistent poverty than children in White families and believes racism and class stereotypes stigmatise and undermine working-class children.
Low levels of statutory maternity, adoption and paternity pay increase the risk of child poverty. Poverty damages every aspect of a child’s life, adversely affecting their ability to enjoy their childhoods and achieve their aspirations.
This unprecedented event has plunged millions of children, many of whom were already struggling to secure a decent diet, further into food insecurity. That is, limited access to food, at the level of individuals or households, due to lack of money or other resources.
Before the pandemic hit, 4.27 million children were living in poverty and were affected by moderate to severe food insecurity. Data gathered by the Food Foundation on food insecurity levels during the Covid-19 lockdown showed that among households with children, the prevalence of food insecurity has doubled since the crisis hit.
Congress notes the government’s chaotic handling of free school meals provision during the coronavirus lockdown, resulting in uncertainty, anxiety and bureaucracy for families and schools.
Congress demands a public review of the basis on which a lucrative national contract for providing free school meal vouchers was awarded during the pandemic.
Coronavirus is a natural phenomenon – how we react to it isn’t. Failing to eradicate child poverty is the result of political failure.
Congress instructs the TUC to:
i. work with the Child Poverty Action Group to campaign for government to:
- restore money lost through freezing benefits, tax credits and subsequent rises in line with inflation
- end the tax credit two-child limit
- abolish the £20,000 pa benefit cap
- overhaul the benefits system, removing unnecessary obstacles and administrative delay
- address the causes of structural racism that lead to disproportionate poverty in Black communities
ii. incorporate measures to end child poverty within TUC campaigns for a green economy and jobs-led recovery after coronavirus
iii. build on increased community action to empower communities to be at the centre of campaigns to end child poverty
iv. campaign for improvements to statutory parental leave rights including a significant increase in statutory payments
v. lobby the government to end the digital divide, starting with the introduction of a publicly funded right for free computer equipment and free access to broadband at home for all children living in poverty in the UK.
The Food Foundation established the Children’s Food Charter in 2019, which has been updated to reflect recent events. Given the scale of the challenge and importance of children’s health and diet the provisions set out in the charter are now more important than ever.
Congress notes the charter calls for:
a. a new children’s right to food commission
b. a nutritious start in life for every child
c. a healthy lunch every day
d. an end to the stigma attached to hunger
e. prioritising health over profit.
Congress agrees to support the charter and campaign for its plan to tackle children’s food insecurity and inequalities in obesity and protect every child’s right to food.
Mover: National Education Union
Seconder: British Dietetic Association
Supporters: Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers; NASUWT; Communication Workers Union