Fewer children mean less child poverty.
Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters, commented, “We welcome the highlighting of the issue of child poverty in the UK by the A Fair Start for Every Child report from Save the Children. We also support their recommendations. However, as a society, we should be seeking to prevent social problems as well as remedying them. Britain has a relatively high rate of unplanned pregnancies and of larger families, which are more prone to poverty. Reducing these high rates would go some way to addressing child poverty.”
Steps that can be taken include improving our variable quality of sex and relationship education and promoting the full range of family planning methods. Phasing in a limit to child benefit and child tax credit to the first two children per household would send out a signal that smaller families are better, both for individuals and society. Such a limit would also free up funds to help those families in particular need.
The Save the Children report warns of the prospect of an increase in child poverty in the UK and notes the harm poverty does to children’s health, quality of life and prospects. The report recommends universal access to childcare, a minimum income for households with children under 5 and for all children to read by age 11.
According to official figures, children living in families with three or more children are 60 per cent more likely to be living in poverty than children in smaller families. Large-family households account for only 14 per cent of all households with children and 25 per cent of all children, but 40 per cent of children living in poverty. This isn’t surprising — families with more children have higher expenses. There are also causal links from poverty to larger families. Some on low incomes may find it harder to access or manage family planning or appealing career paths, creating something of a vicious circle, whereby poverty leads to having a larger family which then makes it harder to escape poverty.