More than one in four children with care worker parents are growing up in poverty, according to a report by Trades Union Congress, with the union warning of “rampant” hardship in households with key workers.
The TUC said that 220,000 children – 28.4% – with at least one social care worker as a parent were in poverty, and said the number was on course to rise to nearly 300,000 by the end of this parliament unless action was taken to improve pay and conditions in the sector.
Looking more broadly, the TUC said one in five key worker households, or 19%, have children living in poverty, with poverty especially prevalent in families where parents are nurses and public transport workers.
The analysis, by Landman Economics, suggests that 50,000 children (25%) with public transport workers as parents are growing up in poverty and more than 100,000 children (10.8%) with teaching staff as parents are living in poverty.
The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said the government had abandoned key workers, and called for a general election.
“Our amazing key workers risked their lives to get us through the pandemic. The very least they deserve is to be able to provide for their families. But many have been trapped in poverty and abandoned by this government,” O’Grady said.
“The Conservatives’ decision to hold down wages – as living costs soar – is causing rampant hardship. We can’t be a country where bankers are allowed to help themselves to bigger bonuses, while nurses and care staff are forced to use food banks. There must be a general election now.”
The TUC predicted that child poverty rates among key worker households would worsen unless action was taken to improve pay and conditions, after ministers announced another year of real-terms pay cuts for millions of key workers in the public sector.
Guardian analysis of Office for National Statistics data shows that public sector earnings have fallen in real terms by 4.3% since the financial crisis, with some professions experiencing falls of as much as 13%.
Polling published by TUC last month revealed that one in seven UK workers were skipping meals and going without food in the cost of living squeeze.
The TUC said the additional support announced by the government to help families with energy bills would be offset by cuts to real-terms pay and other rising living costs, such as soaring food prices.
The findings come as workers from across Britain prepare to rally and lobby MPs at Westminster Central Hall on 2 November to demand action on the cost of living and to call for an urgent general election.