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Former PM Gordon Brown Highlights Soaring Child Poverty in UK: Basic Toiletries Now Seen as Luxuries

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Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown labels soap, shampoo, and toothpaste as 'luxury items' due to rising poverty levels in the UK, during a Sky News interview. He calls on leaders from all political backgrounds to address the needs of what he terms the "austerity children" in the country.

Political journalist @Journoamrogers

Wednesday, May 15, 2024, 6:

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Gordon Brown has stated that children in the UK are experiencing "unprecedented levels of poverty," to the extent that basic hygiene products like shampoo, soap, and toothpaste are now viewed as "luxuries."

During an interview on the Politics Hub with Sophy Ridge, the ex-prime minister expressed his dismay and embarrassment over the current state of poverty in Britain, stating it had reached levels not witnessed in "many, many years."

Mr. Brown highlighted the struggles of a group he termed "austerity's children" – individuals born in the past 15 years who have known only poverty throughout their lives.

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According to recent figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in March, around 4.3 million children, or 30% of all children in the UK, are living in poverty once housing expenses are accounted for.

The number has risen by 100,000 compared to last year.

Former Labour Prime Minister Mr. Brown, who also served as chancellor, expressed to Politics Hub that the cost of living crisis has worsened the already challenging circumstances faced by numerous individuals.

"He explained that they operate a comprehensive support center that combines services of a food bank, clothing bank, furniture bank, toiletries bank, and baby supplies bank all in one location."

"During the previous winter, individuals were urgently seeking blankets to stay warm as they had ceased heating their residences, focusing instead on warming their own bodies.

As summer approaches, essential personal care items like soap, shampoo, and toothpaste are viewed as luxury goods by those who are struggling financially.

"This explains why the highest number of hospital admissions among children aged five to nine is due to dental decay. Moreover, this rate is three and a half times greater in less affluent communities compared to wealthier ones. Essentially, we are witnessing the impact of economic hardship on children."

The ex-premier has called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to make decisive moves in his upcoming autumn statement, and offered counsel to Sir Keir Starmer, likely the next Labour leader, to remain true to his values.

Tune into the Politics Hub featuring Sophy Ridge, airing from 7pm to 8pm Monday through Thursday.

For an enhanced video experience, it is recommended to utilize the Chrome browser.

Stay informed about the most recent updates from the UK and globally by tuning into Sky News.

Sir Keir has upset several members of his party by not committing to remove the two-child limit on benefits, citing the difficult choices his party must make if they come into power.

Mr. Brown reiterated his demands for a comprehensive overhaul of Universal Credit, criticizing its failures, such as the two-child limit on benefits implemented by the Conservative government in 2017, which bars parents from receiving child tax credits or Universal Credit for more than two children.

He suggested to Ridge that the Labour leader ought to eliminate the cap, stating, "I believe they need to conduct a thorough examination of Universal Credit."

"You need to examine every element of Universal Credit that has failed. It's not only the two-child limit creating issues—it's also the restrictions imposed on various benefits, like those for housing."

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Addressing Sir Keir as he gears up for a potential move to Downing Street, Mr. Brown advised the Labour leader to always remember the initial reason for his pursuit of the position.

"He emphasized that losing focus would lead to failure. However, maintaining dedication to one's principles and their application should pave the way to success, and he believes it will certainly be the case for him," he stated.

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The ex-treasurer appealed to Mr. Hunt to extend the £500 million household support fund set to end in late September and proposed the establishment of a children's fund in collaboration with foundations, charities, businesses, and government bodies at local and national levels.

A representative from the government stated, "We are committed to persistently addressing child poverty, which has decreased since 2010. Additionally, our £108 billion support package for living costs has kept 1.3 million individuals, including 300,000 children, from slipping into absolute poverty amid the increased cost of living challenges brought on by the conflict in Ukraine and the effects of COVID."

"Poverty rates among children decrease in households where every adult is employed. Our £2.5 billion initiative aimed at employment will assist more than a million individuals in overcoming obstacles to work. Additionally, we plan to reduce taxes, increase the national minimum wage, and tackle inflation to aid families that are striving to make ends meet."

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