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  • Union body warns of “rampant” hardship in key worker households
  • 1 in 5 children growing up in key worker households are living in poverty 
  • Ministers accused of “abandoning” the workers who got us through the pandemic
  • Mass Westminster lobby and rally to take place to demand general election

More than 1 in 4 (28.4%) children with care worker parents are growing up in poverty, according to new TUC analysis published today (Tuesday).

The analysis – carried out by Landman Economics – shows that 220,000 kids with at least one social care worker as a parent are in poverty.

The union body warned this number is on course to rise to nearly 300,000 by the end of this parliament unless swift action is taken to boost pay and conditions.

Key worker poverty “is rampant”

The TUC analysis reveals that child poverty “is rampant” in key worker households. In addition to care staff:

  • Nearly a tenth (9.4%) of kids with nurses as parents are living below the breadline. This represents over 70,000 children.
  • 1 in 9 (10.8%) children with teaching staff as parents are growing up in poverty. This represents around 100,000 children.
  • 1 in 8 (11.8 %) kids of local government workers are growing up in poverty. This represents over 220,000 children.
  • 1 in 4 (25%) children with public transport workers as parents have kids growing up in poverty. This represents 50,000 children.

Overall, the TUC estimates that 1 in 5 (19%) key worker households have children living in poverty.

Worse set to come

The TUC warned that child poverty rates among key worker households are likely to get worse.

Ministers have announced another of year of real-terms pay cuts for millions of key workers in the public sector.

This will result in the average nurse losing £1,100 in real wages this year. And in social care 6 in 10 workers are still being paid less than £10 an hour.

The TUC says the additional support announced by the Treasury to help families with energy bills will be offset by cuts to real-terms pay and other rising living costs.

TUC polling published last month revealed that 1 in 7 UK workers were skipping meals and going without food to make ends meet.

And the same poll showed that over half of UK households were cutting back on central heating, electricity and hot water to save money.

Mass lobby of parliament and rally

The findings are published as workers from across Britain assemble for a mass rally and lobby of MPs in central London on Wednesday 2 November.

From 2pm, trade union members from across the UK will head to the Palace of Westminster for appointments which will start at 2.30pm.

The mass rally will begin at Westminster Central Hall from 6pm.

Speakers will include Frances O’Grady, RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch, CWU General Secretary Dave Ward and frontline workers taking strike action .

Hundreds of union members from all over the country will be in the audience and the rally is expected to finish at around 8pm, when attendees will disperse.

We demand better

The TUC and unions are calling for:

  • Universal credit, benefits and pensions to be updated at least in line with inflation
  • A much higher windfall tax on oil and gas companies
  • Pay to rise across the economy through sector-wide fair pay agreements
  • Key workers in the public sector to be given cost-of-living proofed pay rises
  • A £15 an hour minimum wage as soon as possible

Commenting on the analysis, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“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.

“The Conservatives’ decision to hold down wages – as living costs soar – is causing rampant hardship.

“We can’t go on like this.

“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 foodbanks.

“There must be a general election now.”

Editors note

Children growing up in poverty in key worker households


Total number of children in families with adult(s) in this occupation 

Number of children in poverty (AHC)

Percentage in poverty (AHC) 

Care workers








Teaching staff




Local government




Public transport workers




- Methodology: Landman Economics used information from the Family Resource Survey (FRS) for 2020/21 to calculate the number of children living in households containing at least one key worker based on the industry (2-digit SOC2007) and occupation (1-digit SOC2020) codes in the FRS, and how many of those households are in poverty, taking account of changes in real terms pay between 2020 and 2022 for public and private sector workers using figures from the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings (ASHE).

- All figures are based on household income after housing costs. Note that the 2020/21 FRS is based on a smaller sample size than previous years of FRS due to the difficulty of interviewing households during the Covid-19 pandemic, and poverty estimates are accordingly subject to higher degrees of uncertainty than in previous years.

- The analysis does include the impact of the reduction in Council Tax announced by the government in February 2022 in response to the cost-of-living crisis, the one-off grants announced by the Chancellor in May 2022, and the reversal of previously announced increases in National Insurance Contributions in November 2022.

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