Thousands of children will sink further into poverty by the end of the decade, a new report has warned.
Parents on benefits could be as much as £2,800 worse off a year by 2020 than they were in 2010, according to findings from the End Child Poverty coalition, a charity.
Rises in the cost of living are expected to outstrip increases in child benefit by 17 times over the current decade, the report said, leaving people struggling to feed their children.
One parent told the charity: “Most months I have to decide what is more important: clothes for me or my child, or heating.”
Nearly four million children in the UK live in poverty. But the End Child Poverty coalition’s report said their number would increase in coming years.
An expected 2% rise in child benefit between in 2010 and 2020 will not keep pace with forecasted 35% price rises over the decade, it said.
The disconnect means a family with two children living in poverty is likely to be worse off by as much as £2,800 per year by 2020, compared to the start of the decade.
A four-year freeze on housing benefit will add to the pain for low income families, and could leave some with a rent shortfall of around £154 a month by 2020.
And essentials such as cookers and home insurance are likely to cost poorer people more, amounting to an extra charge of around £1,700 a year, the report found.
Sam Royston, chair of the End Child Poverty coalition, said: “Families living in poverty are trapped between frozen support, rising costs of living, and a hefty poverty premium which means that they pay the most for basic essentials.
“End Child Poverty members know all too well the impact this poverty trap has on children’s lives. Too often, families are facing impossible choices between feeding their children and heating their home.
“The Government needs to take action now, to lift the four-year freeze on children’s benefits, and to ensure that the highest prices for family essentials aren’t paid by those who can least afford them.”
A spokesperson from the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We know that work is the best route out of poverty, so it is welcome that we have near record numbers of people in jobs, and the number of children growing up in working households is at a record high.
“Our welfare reforms are incentivising work and restoring fairness to the system.
“Tackling poverty and delivering real social reform is a priority, and we are helping people to keep more of what they earn, and supporting households with the cost of living.
“We are increasing the National Living Wage, have frozen fuel duty for seven years running and our increases to the personal allowance have reduced tax bills for some of the lowest earners by £1,000 a year.”