3.5m children predicted to be in poverty by 2020

Charities say scale of the problem is  ‘a stain on  the national conscience’

The level of child poverty in Britain is “a stain on our national conscience”, leading charities have said as a Government adviser warns today that its reforms are failing to tackle the problem.

While the economy may be improving and home-owners are benefiting from rising prices, a shocking report published today by the nation’s social mobility tsar predicts that Britain will have 3.5 million children living in poverty by 2020.

In further evidence of the hardship faced by families across the country, a separate study to be published today shows that food charities provided more than 20 million meals last year to people in the UK who could not afford to feed themselves. The figure, from Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust, represents a 54 per cent increase on the previous year.

The former Health Secretary Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, accuses the Government of reneging on its pledge to end the phenomenon.

Mr Milburn said: “The Government’s approach falls far short of what is needed to reduce, yet alone end, child poverty in our country. Our new research shows that the gap between the objective of making child poverty history and the reality is becoming ever wider.”

Research carried out for the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission reveals that the 2020 target for abolishing child poverty will be missed by a large margin.

The commission’s report did find some positive things in the strategy, including the extension of childcare support for low-income families and a greater acknowledgement of the problem of working poverty.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “The Coalition established the commission as an expert watchdog on child poverty, so when it says the Government’s child poverty strategy lacks credibility, ministers must do something about it.

“Getting more parents into work, improving job security and increasing the minimum wage are all essential, but as the commission’s new research shows, it’s not enough.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “We remain committed to our goal of ending child poverty by 2020.”

A documentary to be aired on Channel 4 tonight, Dispatches: Breadline Kids, will reveal the desperate situation for children whose parents are struggling to scrape together enough for a meal. One mother featured on the programme, who is living on benefits with two daughters, has just £3.60 a day to spend on food.

Research to be published today by a coalition of charities reveals a dramatic increase in reliance on food banks. Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust say the 54 per cent annual rise in meals handed out is a damning indictment of an increasingly unequal Britain where five families have the same wealth as the poorest 20 per cent of the population.

Mark Goldring, the chief executive of Oxfam, said: “Food banks provide invaluable support for families on the breadline but the fact they are needed in 21st-century Britain is a stain on our national conscience. Why is the Government not looking into this?

“We truly are living through a tale of two Britains; while those at the top of the tree may be benefiting from the green shoots of economic recovery, life on the ground for the poorest is getting tougher.”

CASE STUDY: The family and the food bank

Holly Jones, 29, from Chichester, West Sussex, had to go to a food bank to feed her daughter, Phoebe, five.

I set up a shop selling second-hand children’s clothes but it wasn’t making any money. Then in January Phoebe went into hospital and I had to shut it temporarily. It turned out to be a bad bout of tonsillitis and she was in hospital for several nights.

I’d raided the shop float to pay for hospital parking and when we came home we had nothing to eat or drink. I had to raid Phoebe’s piggy bank, which had 70p in it, for milk. My mum gave us dinner that night and the next morning I went to the food bank.

I went in there feeling mortified. The people sent us to Citizens Advice to get a voucher, and then we got food. Now I have an extra part-time job in telesales and Phoebe has finally been able to go to a friend’s birthday party this week. Before, I couldn’t take her to any because I couldn’t afford a present for the child.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...