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UK welfare cuts will push more children into poverty: Report

A view of the Broadwater Farm estate in north London, Britain, December 30, 2015. (Photo by Reuters)

The UK government’s plan to cut welfare benefits and implement tax reform is likely to push more children into “absolute poverty” over the next five years, reversing recent improvements, a British think tank has warned.

The proportion of children living in poverty is likely to rise to around 30 percent by 2022, a 3 percent rise from 2015, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said Thursday.

The IFS projects that the number of children in poverty will rise by 900,000 to 5.1 million by 2022.

"Tax and benefit changes planned for this parliament explain all of the projected increase in absolute child poverty between 2014–15 and 2021–22," IFS researcher Andrew Hood said.

The IFS defines poverty as a family earning less than 60 percent of median income after housing costs, approximately 288 pounds a week.

The value of most welfare benefits is set to fall by 6 percent in real terms over the next four years as a result of rising inflation over Britain’s vote to leave the European Union in June, the IFS said.

The forecast from the IFS risks embarrassing UK finance minister Philip Hammond who has shown no sign of abandoning existing policy to freeze most benefits for four years.

There is broad consensus among economists that Brexit will have a prolonged effect on the British economy and will ultimately diminish output, jobs and wealth to some degree.

Child poverty campaigners have demanded an urgent plan from the government, specifically urging Prime Minister Theresa May to reform Britain’s social security system.

“These troubling forecasts show millions of families across the country are teetering on a precipice, with 400,000 pensioners and over one million more children likely to fall into poverty and suffer the very real and awful consequences that brings if things do not change,” said Campbell Robb, chief executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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