Faith leaders call for political cooperation to tackle child poverty

A group of faith leaders, including Cardinal Vincent Nichols, has written to the Prime Minister calling for the urgent establishment of a cross-party commission to tackle child poverty in England.

The faith leaders’ letter highlights growing concern among many communities over poverty and hunger affecting children. They acknowledge the efforts of government to support households on low incomes, and current campaigns by charities to extend a temporary uplift in benefit payments, and by footballer Marcus Rashford to extend Free School Meals.

The letter addresses short, medium and long-term actions to tackle child poverty:

“In the short-term, we believe that temporary measures are needed to ensure that children in low income families do not go hungry during the pandemic, especially over school holidays. Research by the Church of England, Child Poverty Action Group and others has shown how much parents needed and valued the offer of free school meal vouchers during the lockdown and this additional support will remain vital as many areas come under tighter restrictions again.

“In the medium-term, we applaud the Government’s efforts to sustain employment and to bolster the social security system to provide extra support for those on the lowest incomes. These have been a lifeline for millions of families and children, who would otherwise be in a much worse financial situation. Looking ahead, the temporary increase in Universal Credit should be made permanent and extended to cover those on legacy benefits, and Governments should commit to increasing working age benefits at least in line with inflation (as is already the case for pensioners), in order to maintain an adequate safety net for those falling on hard times.

“In the long-term, we need a coherent, cross-government and cross-party strategy to tackle the underlying causes of child poverty, including low pay, educational disadvantage, and the shortage of affordable housing and childcare, as well as measures to promote social mobility and racial justice. Simultaneously, we need a comprehensive social security system that protects people against the vagaries of life, alongside a dynamic voluntary sector to help those who fall through the cracks.”

CSAN welcomes the recognition in the letter of the need for action in the short, medium and long terms. Many of our member charities are actively working in this area. We are seeking to work with them as part of the national ‘Keep the Lifeline’ campaign on Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit, and to step up dialogue with the Government on offering parents in England the option for cash payments alongside meal vouchers.

The full letter is available to download here (pdf, 0.2mb).