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Britain child poverty rates rise faster than any well-off country, Unicef says

CHILD poverty has risen faster in Britain than in any well-off country, a Unicef report has revealed, being placed last for how the rate has changed over the past decade among the world’s 39 high- and upper-middle-income countries in the EU and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the United Kingdom Committee for Unicef, said: “Poverty experienced anywhere — and in any form — poses risks to children’s health, wellbeing and development.

“The consequences can last a lifetime and tackling it should be a national priority.

“While some countries in this group have taken steps to increase support, in the UK we have seen a reduction in spending on child and family benefits and more children growing up in poverty as a result.”

The humanitarian organisation’s report said that during the period it focused on, British expenditure on family cash benefits per child, as a proportion of GDP per capita, decreased from 18 per cent to 11 per cent.

It said several changes to targeted financial support had contributed to this, including the benefit cap, limiting the benefits a household earning below a set threshold can receive, and the two-child limit for child tax credits and the child element of universal credit, meaning families cannot claim support for more children.

Households were considered to be in poverty if their income fell below 60 per cent before housing costs.

The relative child income poverty rate for the UK before housing costs was 20.8 per cent for 2019-21, Unicef said.

During the period from 2012-14 and 2019-21, the UK saw a 20 per cent rise in relative child income poverty rates before housing costs, it added.

Mr Sparkes added: “We urge the UK government to take steps to protect all children from poverty, starting by making child poverty reduction a government priority, scrapping the two-child limit policy and benefits cap, and improving services and support, especially for the youngest children through a national baby and toddler guarantee for all children in the UK.”

Britain was placed 37 out of 39 countries in an overall league table which combined both their most recent income poverty rate to 2021 and their success in reducing child poverty, ahead of only Turkey and Colombia.

Slovenia, Poland and Latvia were the top three in the table, while Ireland was placed ninth in the overall rankings.

The Department for Work and Pensions was contacted for comment.

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