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Working families in poverty, commission finds

Poverty is “overwhelmingly” a problem facing working families, not just the unemployed, a new report warns. 

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, launched by the Coalition Government and chaired by former Labour minister Alan Milburn, called for employers and government to do more to support low-paid families. 

Recommendations include paying higher minimum wages, offering better training and career development, a commitment to end long-term youth unemployment, and offering apprenticeships and work experience. 

Two-thirds of children living in poverty are from families where at least one parent is working, and around five million people – mainly women – are earning less than the living wage (£7.45 an hour, and £8.55 in London). Social mobility is stalling, the commission warned, and simply securing employment is not enough to move out of poverty. 

Milburn said: “It is part of Britain’s DNA that everyone should have a fair chance in life. Yet compared to many other developed nations we have high levels of child poverty and low levels of social mobility. Over decades we have become a wealthier society but we have struggled to become a fairer one.

“Just as the UK government has focused on reducing the country’s financial deficit it now needs to redouble its efforts to reduce our country’s fairness deficit. If Britain is to avoid being a country where all too often birth determines fate we have to do far more to create more of a level playing field of opportunity. That has to become core business for our nation.” 

The report stated: “The nature of poverty has changed. Today child poverty is overwhelmingly a problem facing working families, not the workless or the work-shy. Two-thirds of Britain’s poor children are now in households where an adult works. In three-quarters of those households someone already works full-time. The problem is that those working parents simply do not earn enough to escape poverty.” 

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