​Children forced to live on £1 a day ‘ultimate losers’ of welfare reforms – study

Reuters / Susana Vera
Thousands of children in the UK are being pushed into severe poverty and hunger because their parents cannot work or receive government benefits, new research has found.

Changes to government immigration and benefits policies have left a “dysfunctional system,” a report by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at the University of Oxford discovered.

Academics found children are the “ultimate losers,” with thousands subsisting on as little as £1 per person per day.

Some families go months without receiving any help, forcing them to sleep in cars, disused buildings or even on the streets.

Most of the families affected are in the UK legally but are awaiting a decision from the Home Office regarding their immigration status.

Some 71 percent of families being helped by local authorities in 2012/13 were awaiting the outcome of their immigration case.

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Changes by central government to immigration and welfare benefits has left thousands of people unable to work or claim state support.

Parents are forced to rely on financial assistance from local authorities, which can be as little as £5 a week for a family.

Researchers found that an estimated 3,391 families and 5,900 children were supported by local authorities in this way.

Local governments are legally obliged to protect children in poverty, but they receive no funding from central government to meet the costs.

The study was based on a survey of 137 Children’s Services departments in England and Wales, in addition to 105 voluntary sector organizations and 92 interviews.

Co-author of the report Jonathan Price said: “There is a real tension between the desire to keep these people out of the welfare state and the legal obligation that falls on local authorities.”

There is a question to be asked about the long-term impact on children of living on subsistence rates that are well below welfare rates.”

Rita Chadha, chief executive of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London, said: “We see at least one client a day in this situation.

"They come in extremely distressed. We’ve seen children sleeping in church graveyards and disused shops. In many cases councils won’t give families money until prompted to by other agencies.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the government welcomed those who wish to make a life in the UK, but “family life must not be established here at the taxpayer's expense.”

The spokeswoman also said: “We work closely with local authorities to ensure that immigration decisions in cases receiving local authority support are made as quickly as possible.”

She added: “In exceptional circumstances, or where people granted leave on family grounds show that they would otherwise be destitute, they are granted recourse to public funds.”