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Children's Commission on Poverty Report

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A Children’s Commission on Poverty Report published in October 2013 outlined shocking statistics gained from their recent survey of 2000 10-17 year old children across the UK.

Of the children that said their family ‘was not well off at all’ 26% said that their house suffered from problems of damp and mould, 53% said that they do not have enough room and 54% said that their house was too cold last winter.

The sad fact of the matter is that the majority of those children’s parents will not be able to afford to seek legal assistance to bring a claim. Since April 2013, Legal Aid availability has changed and more than ever needs to be considered on a case by case basis. An increase in coughs and colds, although potentially attributable to the disrepair, will sometimes not be deemed to be serious enough to meet the Legal Aid threshold. Legal Aid is also not available to assist people with the allocation of social housing.

The effect of the bedroom tax on children in the UK has been widely publicised. Families are suffering due to the tax and many are being forced to spend their small income on the shortfall in their rent instead of heating their homes and providing nutritious meals for their children. The Report shows that despite the bedroom tax over half the children surveyed that said their family ‘was not well off at all’ said they do not have enough room in their house. Clearly the tax has not had the desired effect of freeing up larger properties for those living in overcrowded conditions.

With regular reports in the news about the extent of unemployment and the number of people having to use food banks to feed their families it seems that too many children are living in conditions that could potentially be damaging their health, their family life and their upbringing.

The cases that can be funded by Legal Aid have been steadily decreasing year by year and figures from the Legal Aid Agency recently published show that the number of cases opened between April 2010 to April 2013 fell by 16%. The effects of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) and other recent welfare reforms have not yet been fully analysed but it is likely that the decrease in cases will be even larger.

Children are being left to suffer due to welfare reforms that are meant to protect their health and happiness.

By Jessica Knott, graduate paralegal in the housing law team