Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - Page 7 News List

Family living standards dropping in UK: report

AP, LONDON

Poor families in Britain are struggling to provide basics for their children as the cost of living rises faster than wages and benefits, research released by a charity suggested yesterday.

The cost of raising a child during the first 18 years of life rose 4 percent to £148,105 (US$230,400) last year, while average earnings rose 1.5 percent and safety net benefits rose 1 percent, according to the report from the Child Poverty Action Group.

“This research paints a stark picture of families being squeezed by rising prices and stagnant wages, yet receiving ever-diminishing support from the government over the course of the last year,” said Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham said.

“Every parent knows it’s getting harder to pay for the essentials their children need, and they don’t feel like politicians see them as a priority,” she said.

The report comes as Britain’s coalition government, elected in 2010, imposes tough austerity measures to reduce the nation’s budget deficit.

Those programs include limiting benefit increases to 1 percent annually for three years, forcing many low-income residents to pay local council tax for the first time, and a new fee for public housing tenants with spare bedrooms.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has acknowledged that the recovery is taking “longer than anyone hoped,” but says that tackling the deficit will be better for the country in the long run despite the short term pain.

Child poverty advocates argue that such measures hit families hard — and that safeguarding families should be the government’s priority.

Looking at the numbers in economic isolation without considering the impact of such policies on children will not help the economy, they say, because families under strain will not be able to spend in the local community or save for the future.

Low-income families have been hit especially hard by higher world commodity prices, because basic items such as groceries and heating bills take up a larger portion of their incomes, the report said.

Rising costs for public transportation and public housing also fall disproportionately on the poor.

At the same time, safety-net benefits were cut in real terms for the first time since the 1930s, rather than rising by at least the rate of inflation, the report said.

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