Over a million children of key workers are currently living in poverty, according to research by the TUC.
The research found that in some regions more than a quarter of children in key worker households are living in poverty.
Key worker families in the North East have the highest rate of child poverty (29%), followed by London (27%), the West Midlands (25%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (25%).
The TUC says the main reasons for key worker family poverty [based on household income after housing costs are deducted] are low pay and insecure hours. Key workers include care workers, delivery drivers and supermarket staff.
It adds that high housing costs further reduce keyworker family budgets for essentials like groceries and utility bills.
The TUC says support through Universal Credit is not enough to guarantee families avoid poverty and that current government policies such as capping pay rises for key workers in the public sector and the axing of the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit at the end of September, are likely to increase child poverty rates.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Every key worker deserves a decent standard of living for their family. But too often their hard work is not paying off like it should. And they struggle to keep up with the basic costs of family life.
“The prime minister has promised to ‘build back fairer’. He should start with our key workers. They put themselves in harm’s way to keep the country going through the pandemic. Now, we must be there for them too.
“This isn’t just about doing right thing by key workers. If we put more money in the pockets of working families, their spending will help our businesses and high streets recover. It’s the fuel in the tank that our economy needs.”
The TUC is calling on the government to raise the national minimum wage to £10 per hour immediately; end the freeze on public service workers’ pay and give all public service workers a decent pay rise; fund the public sector so that all outsourced workers are paid at least the real Living Wage and get parity with directly employed staff; and cancel the £20 cut to Universal Credit.
The report comes as the Joseph Rowntree Foundation publishes its annual update of the Minimum Income Standard (MIS) which calls for two urgent changes “to unlock millions of us being held back from reaching a minimum acceptable standard of living in 2021”. They are keeping the £20 a week uplift and ensuring people who are still receiving the legacy benefits that UC is replacing, many of whom are disabled or carers, are no longer excluded from the uplift and prioritising the creation of good quality jobs, that provide stability, pay at least the real Living Wage and give people options about working hours.