"The DWP again failed to give any estimate of how many children would be lifted out of poverty because of the introduction of Universal Credit

DWP quietly drops Universal Credit child poverty forecast

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has quietly dropped its estimates of how many children will be lifted out of poverty because of Universal Credit.

A white paper from 2010, which set out the government's plans for the new programme, suggested it could lift 350,000 children out of poverty.

In 2013, a written answer to Conservative MP Chris Skidmore from then DWP minister Esther McVey showed that that estimate had been downgraded to 150,000.

"Before taking account of any expected behavioural change among the self-employed affected, modelling estimates that universal credit reduces the number of individuals in relative income poverty by some 400,000; including more than 150,000 children," McVey said.

When asked again in 2016, this time by Labour MP Stephen Timms, the department failed to provide any figure at all, instead Timms was told that the government is "committed to eliminating child poverty".

Later that year, former work and pensions secretary and architect of Universal Credit Iain Duncan Smith was asked about the change in child poverty estimates, while speaking at a Resolution Foundation event. His answer suggested that the government's decision to cut the amount a claimant can earn before losing some of their benefits was behind the reduced figures. (From 58 mins in clip below)

"The child poverty figures you are talking about are hugely influenced by the fall in work allowances. So the reason the department doesn't want to say very much about the child poverty figure is because Universal Credit had a very distinct effect on child poverty. If you reduce the work allowances, that effect begins to fall away," he said.

When contacted by Politics.co.uk this week, the DWP again failed to give any estimate of how many children would be lifted out of poverty because of the introduction of Universal Credit.

The director of policy at the Child Poverty Action Group, Imran Hussain said:

"Universal Credit was sold to us all as a poverty fighting policy that would cut child poverty numbers by 350,000. But looking at scale of the cuts made to it since then, it's clear the Universal Credit we have today –  the system families will rely on – will be creating, not cutting, child poverty.

"There's an overwhelming public interest reason for the government to update its assessment of Universal Credit's impact on child poverty. It is disappointing and revealing that the government is refusing to come clean. We are not going to fix Universal Credit if we bury our heads in the sand about its failings."

A  spokesperson for the DWP said:

"We are committed to making a meaningful difference to the lives of the most disadvantaged children and families. That includes an approach which goes beyond the safety net provided by the welfare system to tackle the root causes of child poverty and disadvantage.

"That is why we repealed the income-related targets set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010 and replaced them with two statutory measures that drive action on parental worklessness and children’s educational attainment,  the two areas that can make the biggest difference to children’s outcomes, now and in the future. Work is the key to helping people out of poverty. Employment is at a record high and Universal Credit is set to boost employment by around 250,000."