Education & Family

Benefit cuts 'threaten to increase babies in poverty'

Newborn baby
Image caption The government is cutting numerous grants and benefits for parents of new babies

More babies are at risk of being born into poverty because of tax and benefit changes in the UK, a charity says.

A report by Family Action warns that new parents and babies will bear the brunt of cuts to benefits and tax credit support to families.

The charity is warning that affected families may use doorstep lenders to help plug the holes in their finances.

The government said its moves to tackle the budget deficit would have no measurable impact on child poverty.

But it is making cuts to a number of key grants and welfare entitlements for new parents.

These include the health in pregnancy grant, the Sure Start maternity grant, the baby element of the child tax credit and the axing of the Child Trust Fund.

The charity, which works with 45,000 vulnerable families a year, estimates that at least a million of the poorest families will lose one or more of these benefits.

Analysis for the charity in its report Born Broke suggests the poorest families stand to lose £1,735 in pregnancy support and help for new babies.

Middle income families will lose thousands of pounds more when losses from changes to the tax credit income disregard and childcare costs are taken into account.

And the charity is warning that the poorest new parents may have to resort to doorstep lenders to plug the holes left in their finances.

Family Action chief executive Helen Dent said: "The loss of these grants could be dire for many families and may force them into the arms of doorstep lenders.

"We know from speaking to parents here that this is an option they'd consider. That or their babies will simply have to go without.

"These forgotten families and their children will be counting the cost of austerity.

"Many parents will be hit hard by measures which will disadvantage new babies at birth."

'Best start'

Ms Dent added that vulnerable mothers would struggle to maintain a healthy diet during pregnancy and that low income families would find it tough to meet the needs of their newborn children.

She added: "We know from talking to the new parents who access our services how vital these funds are in giving families and their children the best possible start in life.

"Now they'll be on the back foot from birth thanks to the government's policies."

A spokesman for the Treasury said: "Putting the public finances back on a stable footing is vital if the government is to rebuild confidence in the economy, protect jobs and reduce the risk of a sharp rise in interest rates.

"The government is committed to reducing the deficit in a fair way that still supports the most vulnerable in society; reforming the welfare system to put it on a sustainable long-term footing whilst preserving key benefits for vulnerable people.

"These steps have ensured that there is no measurable impact on child poverty."

He added that by taking tough decisions, such as abolishing child benefit for higher rate taxpayers and ensuring that work pays, child tax credit could be increased.

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