There are 4.5 million children living in poverty according to new proposed independent measure

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

There are 4.5 million children living in poverty in the UK according to an independent commission of experts.

Currently there is no agreed UK government measure of poverty and the Social Metrics Commission (SMC) was founded in 2016 in a bid to develop a definitive measure.

Its report, published on Monday (September 17), outlines a measure which takes into account a family’s net income, other available resources, any debt and so-called “inescapable” costs – such as disability, childcare and rents/mortgages.

From this, it creates a figure of the total resources available (TRA) and its poverty threshold is 55 per cent of the three-year average of the median TRA.

Under the new measure, the SMC concludes that 14.2 million people in the UK population are in poverty – 4.5 million children, 8.4 million working-age adults and 1.4 million pensioners. Of these, 7.7 million are living in “persistent poverty” – meaning they have been in poverty for at least two of the previous three years. Persistent poverty is highest in families more than 10 per cent below the poverty line, in workless families and families where someone is disabled.

The 4.5 million child poverty figure is higher than official figures published by the Department for Work and Pensions last year, which show that 30 per cent of children – around four million – are considered to be living in poverty. The government measure is based on UK households with a relative low income after housing costs. A household is judged to have relative low income if it earns below 60 per cent of the median income for the UK.

Professor Leon Feinstein, director of evidence at the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and a member of the SMC, said: “The work undertaken by the SMC has improved the accuracy of estimation of levels and types of poverty, focusing better than previous measures on the experience of poverty. By taking childcare and other needs into account the work of the commission has shown a greater level of poverty for children, which has hitherto been hidden.

“(We) hope that government and other agencies will use the measure to re-establish a clear policy focus on poverty reduction and to improve the targeting and effectiveness of policy.”

Commenting on the report, Sam Royston, director of policy and research at the Children’s Society, said: “This important report rightly suggests that inescapable costs like childcare, housing and support for children with a disability should be taken into account when measuring poverty. When these are considered children sadly make up a greater proportion of those in poverty than previously recognised.”


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