Proof That Work Just Doesn't Pay; Jobless Homes Suffer Less from Child Poverty

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Byline: Jason Groves Political Correspondent

CHILD poverty is rising among working families, while generous benefits cut it for the unemployed, a report has revealed.

The study, by the respected Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is an indictment of Labour's record in power - and casts doubt on the Coalition's ability to deliver its pledge to 'make work pay'.

It reveals that, while the policy of lavishing benefits on the unemployed has helped tackle some aspects of child poverty, many working families have fallen behind.

Child poverty in workless families fell in 2008-09 to 1.6million, despite the impact of the recession.

But during the same period, child poverty among working families rose to 2.1million - the highest on record.

The figures continue a trend that began five years ago and mean that 58 per cent of children in poverty now live in homes where at least one parent works.

Tom MacInnes, co-author of the report, said 'substantial' increases in benefits had helped drag many children in workless homes above the poverty line.

But he said there had been too little focus on the children of people in low-paid jobs: 'The figures suggest that something is going wrong for people in this group - it is disappointing. It demonstrates that work alone is not always a route out of poverty.

'The current Government needs to take that into account. We have heard a lot of talk about making work pay, but it has all focused on the rate at which benefits are withdrawn. These figures show that it is also about rates of pay and hours. There is a significant problem with working poverty that needs to be addressed.'

Mr MacInnes said there were a number of factors behind the rise in poverty among children in working households. In some cases, parents may have had their pay rates or hours cut. In others, one parent may have lost their job. Rising living costs, including council tax, may also have contributed. The figures are adjusted according to the number of people in the family and are calculated after deductions for taxes, housing costs, water bills and insurance.

In 2008-09, the poverty line for a single adult was set at [pounds sterling]119 a week, while for a family with two school age children it was [pounds sterling]289 a week.

The report will make worrying reading for Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, whose new Universal Credit scheme is designed to ensure that unemployed parents who decide to take a job will not be crippled by the immediate withdrawal of all their benefits. …