Parents earning the national living wage cannot afford the basic costs of bringing up a child, a new report claims.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) says the minimum additional cost of raising a child from birth to the age of 18 is £75,436 for a couple or £102,627 for a lone parent.
But families in which both parents work full time for the national living wage of £7.50 are 13% short of the minimum cost of living – about £59 a week.
Lone parents working full time for the same wage are 18% short – £68 a week.
CPAG said a 4% rise in the living wage has not been enough to counteract the effects of a freeze on working age benefits and cuts to tax credits.
Couples on the average (median) wage with two young children earn 8% more than the minimum cost of living but lone parents on the same wage are still 14% short.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of CPAG, said: “Our research shows that the benefit freeze will mean that children will be the main losers with the return of inflation.
“The cost of raising children is rising but for the first time in decades support for families is not keeping pace.
“The result is a yawning gap between what ordinary families need for a no-frills living standard and what they actually have. And the shortfall will grow if inflation rises further, with damaging consequences for children.”
Parents relying on benefits fall about 40% short of the amount needed to give a child “a socially acceptable minimum living standard”, according to the report.
Report author Professor Donald Hirsch, of Loughborough University, said: “These cuts are particularly painful for non-working families, who already have little over half what they need to cover family costs.
“For them, the ‘safety net’ of means-tested support no longer merits this name, since it does not offer the safety of an income capable of covering essentials.
“Families unable to cover their costs on benefits are typically having to fall back on help from their families, run up large debts or undergo serious hardship.”