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More than 60 charities join forces to demand emergency child benefit boost

Child Poverty Action Group, Barnardo's, Women's Aid, the Trussell Trust and around 60 other organisations have mobilised to put government focus on what is a lifeline for millions of families

Families plunged even deeper into poverty by the Covid 19 crisis are in desperate need of a rise in child benefits, charities right across the UK have said in a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Campaigners from major anti-poverty and children’s organisations plus academics, unions and faith leaders are demanding a £10 per week uplift in child benefit for families during this public health emergency.

Yesterday’s planned annual uprating of child benefit added 35p in value for an eldest or only child – taking it to £21.05 per week – and just 23p extra for additional kids, adding up to £13.93 a week. Nearly 13 million UK children receive the benefit, and a £10 uplift would require the government to remove the current benefit cap to make sure the boost could reach every family.

The emergency support is urgently needed to make sure all parents “can cover the basic costs of raising their children in the face of reduced income and before the new income protection measures can take effect”, signatories from groups including Child Poverty Action Group, Barnardo’s, Women’s Aid and the Trussell Trust said.

Campaigners said the government help offered to prop up household incomes so far is welcome, but that more needs to be done immediately if low-income families are to stay afloat while covering the extra costs of school closures.

It’s a benefit which has been hit hard by freezes since the Tories brought in tough spending cuts 2011, meaning more than half the suggested £10 increase would bring the amount paid to families in line with what it was in 2010.

And the full £10 uplift would cut child poverty rates by roughly five per cent – making it a more effective measure than the £20 Universal Credit and working tax credit increase.

Charities behind the campaign said: “It offers an effective, fast and resilient way to get money to families through our existing infrastructure – families will get the help they need directly into their bank accounts to cover additional costs.”

Millions of families need their government to take “swift action to strengthen their finances and to shield children from additional hardship”, they added.

Commenting on the letter sent to the chancellor, John Dickie, director of signatories Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: “The number of organisations behind this letter to the Chancellor mean it must not, and cannot, be ignored. Children need to be protected from the impact of coronavirus, and increasing child benefit is the quickest and most effective way of ensuring families have the additional resources they need in these extraordinarily difficult times.”