Nearly one in five children in key worker households in the South East live in poverty

This information first appeared on the TUC website

New research published today (Wednesday) by the TUC (produced by Landman Economics) finds that 143,000 children of key workers in the South East are living in poverty. 

The research, which used the government definition for key workers, found that over a million children of key workers across the UK are living in poverty. 

Although the rate of child poverty in key workers households in the South East at 19% is lightly below the national average of 21%, the union body says that thousands are lives are being scarred and no key worker families should be in poverty. 

Government policies could worsen key worker poverty 

The TUC says the main reasons for key worker family poverty are low pay and insecure hours – factors that often coincide in occupations such as care workers, delivery drivers or supermarket staff.  

High housing costs further reduce keyworker family budgets for essentials like groceries and utility bills. And support through Universal Credit is not enough to guarantee families avoid poverty. 

Current government policies are likely to increase child poverty rates. Ministers have capped pay rises for key workers in the public sector, which in some cases will mean real wage losses. And the chancellor is planning to cut Universal Credit for low-income families by £20 per week in October. 

The TUC warns that these policies will put the brakes on the nation’s economic recovery by curbing household spending. This will restrain business activity, and impact on wage growth for other workers across the economy. 

TUC Regional Secretary Sam Gurney said: 

“All our key workers in the South East deserve a decent standard of living for their family. But too often their hard work is not paying off like it should. And they struggle to keep up with the basic costs of family life. 

“The prime minister has promised to ‘build back fairer’. He should start with our key workers. They put themselves in harm’s way to keep the country going through the pandemic. Now, we must be there for them too. 

“This isn’t just about doing right thing by key workers. If we put more money in the pockets of working families, their spending will help our businesses and high streets recover in the South East. It’s the fuel in the tank that our economy needs.” 

Support needed for key worker families 

The TUC is calling on the government to guarantee decent living standards for key worker families by: 

  • Raising the national minimum wage to £10 per hour immediately. 
  • Ending the freeze on public service workers’ pay and give all public service workers a decent pay rise. 
  • Funding the public sector so that all outsourced workers are paid at least the real Living Wage and get parity with directly employed staff. 
  • Cancelling the £20 cut to Universal Credit, which is set to hit low-income families in October, and set out plans to increase child benefit above inflation each year across the parliament. 

Notes to editors:
– Children in poverty in key worker households by UK nation and region

Region  Children in poverty in key worker families  Proportion of children in poverty in key worker families 
North East  56,198  29.1% 
North West  101,481  18.1% 
Yorks & the Humber  100,214  24.9% 
East Midlands  80,653  21.2% 
West Midlands  111,577  25.2% 
East of England  83,719  15.5% 
London  164,548  26.5% 
South East  143,372  18.7% 
South West  66,678  15.6% 
Wales  60,378  23.4% 
Scotland  74,376  18.7% 
TOTAL  1,062,586  20.6%

Methodology: Landman Economics combined information from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Family Resource Survey (FRS) for 2019/20 to calculate the number of children live in key worker households and how many of those households are in poverty. All figures are based on household income after housing costs. 

– About the TUC: The Trades Union Congress (TUC) exists to make the working world a better place for everyone. We bring together the 5.5 million working people who make up our 48 member unions. We support unions to grow and thrive, and we stand up for everyone who works for a living.