Caroline Nokes is Member of Parliament for Romsey and Southampton North.
Almost exactly a month ago we learned that the UK economy had experienced its fifth consecutive quarter of growth – the longest good run since the financial crash.
It goes without saying that this news is incredibly welcome and something our government should be proud of overseeing. But it is also worth considering what this return to growth means for families up and down the income distribution scale and whether we can say with confidence that everyone will reap the benefits.
Today’s new report from Save the Children claims that the outlook for the UK’s poorest children remains bleak despite the newly buoyant economy. It says that a triple whammy of stagnant wages, changes to welfare and rising prices, and the fact that it simply costs more to be poor, mean that the numbers of children living in poor households are likely to increase. Furthermore, outcomes for those children – across health, emotional wellbeing, cognitive development and educational attainment, for example – are likely to get worse.
As a Conservative, it is my fundamental belief that work must always pay, which makes it particularly significant that extremely low pay at the bottom end of the scale prevents work from being the guaranteed route out of poverty that we all want it to be. It’s also why I can’t say I agree with everything in the report including its critique of welfare policy – it’s clear that any poverty alleviation strategy must ensure that it pays more to be in work than out of it.
But ultimately the findings in Save the Children’s report are stark. I believe we all have responsibility and an opportunity. As we continue to move into growth, we must ensure that part of our long-term economic plan is making sure that the right policies – affordable childcare, extra help at school targeted at those children from disadvantaged backgrounds, a decent wage for all – are in place, so that all parents are able to provide financial security for their families and all children have a decent chance at succeeding in life.