Kate Taylor: Poverty in Lincoln and beyond – why are so many in financial insecurity?

The autumn budget will take place on the 22nd of this month, in the meantime the IFS (Institute for Fiscal Studies) have released their latest projections for poverty in Great Britain.

They have predicted that relative child poverty will increase from 30% to 37% by 2021, leaving millions of children to live in poor conditions. The problem with child poverty (aside from the obvious) is it has far reaching affects into the future. It means the next generation are less likely to receive an adequate education and more likely to enter into crime thanks to peer pressure and financial strains. If we are to protect the future, changing this must be a top priority.

It has been proven that one of the biggest reasons for this increase is due to the continued changes in benefits and tax credits. Said changes will see the Government save approximately £3 billion per year – but at what cost?

With Brexit negotiations underway, prices for food and other goods become more expensive, though the pound is holding well after last Friday’s trading fears that it will drop by around 5% before Christmas are being heard. Hopefully PM Theresa May can make progress and mitigate any fears, thus continuing talks to keep Britain afloat with successful trade deals.

In April the ‘two child element’ was introduced, meaning any child born into a family of at least two children already will not be eligible for further child benefit or child tax credits, this also applies to Universal Credit which was introduced in Lincolnshire in 2015.

The firstborn child also no longer receives a premium, they are entitled to the same amount as the second child. Said ‘family element’ has also been dissolved – those who choose to stay at home with their offspring will have to enter into a job finding scheme when their child is one, with the aim of having them in work by the time the child is three.

This process could be, in theory, a supportive framework helping people gaining employment, but as it stands there are so many loopholes, from insane sanctions to regulatory bodies with more grant money then sense.

The ‘two child element’ also shockingly applies to housing benefit, which one can only presume could lead to families with three or more children living in two bedroom accommodation, regardless of age or gender.

One piece of good news is that the hours of free childcare has doubled for those in work and earning a minimum of 16 hours minimum wage, and those who don’t fit that criteria still receive the 15 free hours.

There is a maximum earnings limit…at £100,000. The Government have preached about saving money and decreasing the deficit, so why on earth are we budgeting free childcare for those earn nearly six figures?

This has ripped apart the safety net our country created a century ago. The welfare state has become a tool to mock the poor, elderly and disabled; with horror stories in their thousands being told every day.

Universal Credit itself isn’t a bad idea; the inclusive nature means more people will receive all the benefits they’re entitled to, but it needs ironing out. Civil servants/private contractors should spend less time crucifying people for not being in work and more time helping them out of abject poverty – and unfortunately finding employment isn’t enough to pull people out of poverty and debt.

Lincoln has the highest crime rating in the county, which could be attributed to the fact it’s a city, but it has higher poverty-stricken areas unlike outer towns and villages; and unfortunately, where there’s poverty there’s crime.

Since last year crime has risen, particularly anti-social behaviour. Time and again we have seen that with financial crisis there comes social unrest. Though on the surface it may look like youths being an unruly pain, behind it there is always a reason.

The government, both locally and nationally, have a greater responsibility than ever; the autumn budget is due on the 22nd and we await with baited breath in the hope our Chancellor has a plan to tackle the increasingly impossible situation low-income households have been put in.