Ministers should give up the ghost on suspending free travel for children


Thousands more children in the capital could be plunged further below the poverty line if the Government does not scrap its plans to remove free travel for 11-18 year olds.

Speaking during London Challenge Poverty Week, local London Assembly, Unmesh Desai, called on Ministers to focus on “repairing the holes” in the welfare system, rather than pursue a “cruel policy” that punishes London’s children.

The latest figures from End Child Poverty, show that between 2017/2018, 30% of children in the City of London were living in poverty, after housing costs are taken into account.

Despite this, as part of a previous emergency funding agreement with Transport for London (TfL), the Government has ordered that free travel for some groups of children in the capital should be suspended.

London Councils estimate that this policy could cost affected parents £83 million a year collectively, with local authorities in the capital facing an annual bill of £27 million.

This week, the Mayor of London held a roundtable with young people campaigning against the planned changes, which due to operational challenges, have now been delayed until the spring and narrowed-down to cover 11-18 year olds only.

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Ahead of an anticipated further bailout deal being struck with TfL, Mr Desai is now reiterating his calls for the Government to scrap this requirement altogether

Instead, he is urging Ministers to take positive action to help low-income families, such as scrapping the two-child benefit cap, increasing Local Housing Allowance (LHA) to cover average rents in an area, and raising the cap on Universal Credit.

Mr Desai said: “It is shameful that thousands of children in our community are growing up in the grip of poverty.

“It’s a kick in the teeth for struggling families that the Government are still pressing ahead with plans to take away free travel for thousands of 11-18 year olds.

“Now this cruel policy has been pushed back to the spring, the Government should surely give up the ghost and scrap it altogether.

“With the threat of more job losses due to the pandemic, Ministers should instead be focussing upon repairing the holes that have been slashed in the safety net over the last decade.”

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