In some areas of the UK, more than 60 per cent of children live in poverty

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: iStock

Disturbing new analysis shows that child poverty has become “normal” for many areas across the UK.

New analysis of the official Households Below Average Income data shows a worrying number of areas where more than half of children grow up in poverty – in some wards the figure is approaching 70 per cent.

Published by the End Child Poverty coalition, the data also warns that child poverty is rising fastest in areas where it is already high, further entrenching existing poverty gaps.

Researchers from Loughborough University analysed the 2019 Households Below Average Income data, which was published in March and relates to the year 2017/18.

Their subsequent report shows that across both relative and absolute poverty measures – and whether measured before or after housing costs – the number of children living in poverty has risen since 2010.

Relative poverty is based on whether households have less than 60 per cent of the current UK median household income, whereas absolute poverty is based on a fixed income threshold set at 60 per cent of 2010 income (inflation-uprated).

The latest figures show that 22 per cent of UK children are living in relative poverty before housing costs – a total of three million. This figure rises to 4.1 million or 30 per cent when measured after housing costs. This latter figure is now 500,000 more than in 2010.

Campaigners have been shocked by the analysis not least because it shows that in many local areas well above half of children are living in relative poverty after housing costs.

These areas include the local authorities of Tower Hamlets (56.7 per cent) and Newham (51.8 per cent), Parliamentary constituencies such as Birmingham Hodge Hill (53.5 per cent) and Manchester Gorton (52.1 per cent), and wards such as Bastwell in Blackburn (69.6 per cent) and Biscot in Luton South (66.6 per cent).

In total, there are 29 wards across the UK where child poverty is above 60 per cent, 10 Parliamentary constituencies where it is above 50 per cent and more than 20 local authorities where it is above 40 per cent. Big cities are badly affected, including London, Birmingham and Greater Manchester.

What is more, of the 28 Parliamentary constituencies where child poverty has risen by five per cent or more in the latest figures, 17 were among those areas already facing high levels of poverty.

The report states: “The fact that the most serious increases in child poverty are coming in areas where the risk is already high underlines the importance of monitoring local child poverty rates rather than just assuming that national trends will affect all areas equally.”

The latest figures come in the context of the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ existing projections that as a result of cuts to benefits and in-work allowances, child poverty will increase to 5.1 million by 2022.

End Child Poverty is calling for the government to set out new policies for tackling child poverty. It wants to see:

  • A restoring of the link between benefits (including housing support) and inflation including back payments to make up for previous inflation increase freezes.
  • An ending of the two-child limit on child allowances in tax credits and Universal Credit, and a reform of Universal Credit.
  • A reversing of cuts and more investment in children’s services such as mental health, education, childcare and social care.

Anna Feuchtwang, chair of the End Child Poverty coalition, said: “We know what causes child poverty and we know how to end it. We know that the income of less well-off families has been hit by severe real-terms cuts in benefits and by higher housing costs. And we know that work alone does not guarantee a route out of poverty, with two-thirds of child poverty occurring in working families.

“Yet in many areas growing up in poverty is not the exception, it’s the rule with more children expected to get swept up in poverty in the coming years, with serious consequences for their life chances. Policy-makers can no longer deny the depth of the problem or abandon entire areas to rising poverty. The government must respond with a credible child poverty-reduction strategy.

“Growing up in poverty means growing up trapped. It restricts a child’s chances of doing well at school, of living a healthy and happy life, and of finding well paid work as adults. We urgently need government to set a course of action that will free our children from the grip of poverty.”


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