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End of pandemic support sees child poverty rising sharply again

New research shows child poverty climbing most steeply in the North and Midlands with seven in ten children experiencing poverty living in working households.

09/06/23

End of pandemic support sees child poverty rising sharply again

An end to the additional support made available during the pandemic has driven up the number of children experiencing poverty to 4.2 million last year – nearly a third (29%) of all dependent children aged 0-19.

Seven in ten (71%) of children in poverty live in households where at least one adult works, a rise of six percentage points since last year. Lone parents in work especially are struggling with more than a quarter (26%) of all children going through poverty being raised by an adult in full-time employment by the same measure.

Researchers found a clear correlation between children in receipt of disability living allowance and the rate of child poverty at a local level. Additionally, in every region of the UK, children from Black or minoritised ethic communities are more at risk of being in poverty than those with white ethnicity.

The analysis of official statistics, carried out by Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) for the End Child Poverty Coalition, also shows how children in larger families are significantly more likely to be experiencing poverty in England and Wales.

Joseph Howes, Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition, said there is one policy change that would make a “direct and immediate difference” – scrapping the two-child limit for those claiming Universal Credit.

“The policy is unfair in the indiscriminate impact it has on children, and there is no evidence it has achieved its aims. Abolishing the two-child limit would immediately lift 250,000 children out of poverty, and the government could make this change now.

“We were encouraged to hear in January that the Labour Party is reviewing the policy, yet they must commit to scrapping it altogether ahead of the next election if they are to successfully deliver on their commitment to lead an assault on child poverty."

Scrapping the two-child limit on benefit payments is a key policy ask of the British Association of Social Workers’ anti-poverty campaign.

In a statement on its website, the Association said it condemned the sharply rising child poverty levels.

“The findings are a stark reminder that child poverty remains worryingly high, with the cost-of-living crisis likely to cause further hardship still.

“Poverty is not an unsolvable problem though. It’s high time the UK Government wakes up to these findings and takes urgent action.”

On ending the two-child limit on benefit payments, BASW said: “Ending this cruel, unjust policy would help to lift 250,000 children out of poverty, giving them the best possible start in life.”

The report also showed stark variations in poverty levels for many regions of the country. While Tower Hamlets recorded the highest level of children experiencing poverty – (47.5% last year) – a dozen other local authorities have seen double digit increases since 2014/15.

On a regional basis over the same period the North East and West Midlands have seen a 9 percentage point rise with the East Midlands registering 7 percentage points and the North West climbing 5 percentage points.

In practice, this means that 51,000 more children have been pulled into poverty across the North East since 2014/15. Twenty-one out of the North East’s 29 Westminster constituencies have more than one in three children living below the poverty line – with the very highest rates being in Middlesbrough (48.7%), Newcastle Central (43.0%), South Shields (39.7%), Gateshead (38.9%) and Redcar (38.4%).

Anna Turley, Chair of the North East Child Poverty Commission, said the matter was “simply unacceptable”.

“These new figures don’t even account for the hardship being felt today by growing numbers of North East families as a result of the cost of living crisis, which is hitting those already on low incomes the very hardest.

“In what remains one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it is absolutely within our gift to fix this and doing so should be the aim of any Government. But this has to start with political determination, a joined-up plan which recognises the scale of the challenge we face, and the right long-term investment in children and families.”

Read the full report: https://endchildpoverty.org.uk/child-poverty/

Find out more about the Social Work Stands Against Poverty campaign: https://www.basw.co.uk/what-we-do/campaigns/social-work-stands-against-poverty

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