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Child poverty figures soar after benefits changes

A squeeze on benefits will push 200,000 children into poverty. That’s a damning statistic that you would expect any government to deny or at least obfuscate. David Cameron’s coalition admitted it was true, accepting that a million children have been added to the poverty total due to the government’s welfare policies.

Limiting in-work and out-of-work tax credits and benefits is the latest culprit. By freezing rises at 1%, considerably below inflation, the government has made a significant dent in the weekly income of the poorest families in Britain. The pinch will be felt this year and, assuming inflation stays at the same rate, will be felt even more keenly over the next three years.

It was one of the coalition’s lower-profile ministers, work and pensions minister Esther McVey, who acknowledged the accuracy of the statistics in an answer to a parliamentary question. She did question whether the current way of measuring poverty was helpful. "Looking at relative income in isolation is not a helpful measure to track progress towards our target of eradicating child poverty," McVey said.

Shadow chancellor Ed Balls seized on the admission. "The true character of this Conservative-led government has now been exposed," he said. !While they give the richest 2% of earners a £3bn tax cut, 200,000 children will be pushed into poverty and millions of working families made worse off. Ministers have spent weeks refusing to admit what the impact of their policies would be on child poverty and now we know why. Children are paying the price of David Cameron and George Osborne's economic failure and the political games they have decided to play."

The statistic might come as a major embarrassment to the Liberal members of the coalition government, although it seems more likely that they long ago got over feeling any qualms about their blithe acquiescence with Conservative Party policies.

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