Home   Kent   News   Article

Benefit cuts and rising costs leave quarter of Kent children in poverty says End Child Poverty coalition

Welfare cuts and rising costs have left a quarter of children in Kent living in poverty, according to a report out today.

The End Child Poverty coalition says the level of deprivation will worse as thousands are affected by the government's new benefits cap.

Across Kent, 94,753 of the 384,760 under 18s in the county are living in poverty, either in receipt of out-of-work benefits or in-work tax credits.

Scroll down for audio

A nine year old was targeted by a groomer, according to police. Pic: Thinkstock
A nine year old was targeted by a groomer, according to police. Pic: Thinkstock

Poverty is classified as a total family income of less than 60% of the national average wage, currently £26,000.

This equates to 25% of Kent children living in poverty, above the south east regional average of 21%.

The worst affected area in the county is South Thanet, where 33.6% children (7,030 out of 21,073) are classed as living below the breadline.

Craig Mackinlay, MP for South Thanet, said:"It is disappointing, once more, to find Thanet at the bottom of the child poverty indexes for Kent.

"The figures, as calculated use the blunt measure of relative income as a measure of child poverty.

"The government has long argued that relative income, with poverty being measured as 60% of median income alone, does not examine poverty in a wider context which should include educational opportunities, housing quality and other factors.

"It must not be forgotten that housing costs are generally lower in Thanet than than other parts of Kent, which immediately skew the relevance of Kent-wide figures.

Craig Mackinlay MP
Craig Mackinlay MP

"Poverty is an emotive word which suggests a picture that we associate with true third world conditions. These are very rare anywhere in the UK and practically non-existent in Thanet.

"That said, the government is committed to increasing opportunities for work and in increasing the minimum/living wage. The economy is in a good and growing place, with more job vacancies across Kent than there are unemployed.

"Work is the best step towards a host of other beneficial outcomes for an entire family.

"There is debate about the new ‘benefit cap’ of £20,000 for a family but the cap is removed if work is undertaken to qualify for Working Tax Credits. The move towards Universal Credit will increasingly make all work pay.

"We could simply pay more out in benefits and make them easier to obtain: it may end the hard measure of child poverty as currently calculated, but would it improve society, or simply create a greater disincentive to work, and make those in work that much more disgruntled with their workless neighbour who appear to be having a better life?

"The story is far more complicated than the annual figures as shown. We have much good news in Thanet, let’s champion that.”

The lowest is Tonbridge and Malling, where 17.33% young people (3,975 out of 22,937) are part of low-income families.

Campaigners are now calling on the government to use the upcoming Autumn Statement to end the freeze on child benefits and reverse sharp cuts to in-work benefits.

There are fears that the harsher rules could lead to more families being made homeless and forced to move away from their children’s friends and schools.

Sam Royston, chairman of End Child Poverty, which is a collection of charities, faith groups and unions, claims families are already struggling to manage.

Chairman of End Child Poverty Sam Royston
Chairman of End Child Poverty Sam Royston

He added: “In every community there are children being denied happy childhoods and good starts in life that other children are taking for granted. Our children are now twice as likely to be as poor as our pensioners.

“Many families who are just about managing today, won’t be tomorrow, as rising costs means their money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to.”

About 1,800 people in the county will be hit by a new benefit cap that comes into effect today.

The government has introduced changes that means new limits on the amount that working age households can receive in benefits.

The cap has been reduced from £26,000 a year to £20,000 a year in the UK under a package of welfare reforms.

They are being brought in under the government’s policy of ensuring there are more incentives to work than live off benefits.

The limits have been criticised by some welfare groups and charities.

The work and pensions minister and Ashford MP Damian Green said: “By making sure that those people who are out of work are faced with the same choices as those who are in work, the benefit cap has been a real success.”

“By lowering the cap, we are ensuring the values of this government continue to chime with those of ordinary working people and delivering on our commitment to make sure work pays more than welfare”.

In Kent, the greatest impact will be on Swale,where an estimated 300 people will be affected if they remain on benefits.

In four other areas - Ashford, Maidstone, Thanet and Gravesham - about 200 people in each will be affected if they do not change their circumstances and find work.

In the remaining areas - Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Malling, Dartford, Dover, Shepway and Sevenoaks - about 100 people will be affected.

The cap for single parents will go down from £500 to £384.62 per week. The cap for couples with or without children will go down from £500 to £384.62 per week.

The cap for single people will go down from £350 to £257.69 per week.

Additional reporting by Paul Francis

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More