Child poverty warning as benefit freeze bites

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Rising prices: All Saints’ Church in Poplar, east London – one of the areas of the UK where more than half of children are growing up in poverty, according to a new analysis (Image: Adobe Stock)

There are some areas of the UK where more than half of children are growing up in poverty.

A new analysis from the End Child Poverty campaign shows that rising prices are pushing increasing numbers of families below the poverty line.

In light of the new figures, it is calling on the government to end its freeze on children’s benefits.

According to official figures on Households Below Average Income, there are around four million children living in poverty in the UK – around 30 per cent of children. This has been predicted to increase by one million by 2021.

Two-thirds (67 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one person works.
A child is said to live in poverty if they are in a family living on less than 60 per cent of median household income after housing costs.

According to the End Child Poverty analysis, this equates to around £248 a week. This figure has then been adjusted depending on how many children are in the household. For example, the poverty line for a couple with two children under-14 is considered to be £347 per week.

The analysis has been carried out on behalf of End Child Poverty by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University and is based on HMRC data and information from the Labour Force Survey.

The figures create a new poverty map of the UK, showing that some of the most deprived areas have seen the biggest increases in child poverty since the last figures were published in December 2015.

Child poverty is the highest in large cities. Of the 20 Parliamentary constituencies with the highest levels of childhood poverty, seven are in London, three in Birmingham, and three in Manchester.

And there are four constituencies where more than half of children are living in poverty: Bethnal Green and Bow in east London (54.2 per cent), Ladywood in Birmingham (53.1 per cent), Poplar and Limehouse in east London (52.8 per cent), and Hodge Hill in Birmingham (51.5 per cent).

When considered by local authority area, the worst five in terms of child poverty are Tower Hamlets, east London (53.4 per cent), Manchester (43.6 per cent), Newham, east London (43.2 per cent), Birmingham (42.3 per cent), and Hackney, east London (41.3 per cent). These figures compare to the areas with the lowest rates of child poverty where just one in 10 children live in families below the poverty line.

When analysed by electoral wards, there are 87 across the UK where child poverty rates after housing costs are above 50 per cent, including one above 60 per cent – Coldhurst in Oldham.

The freeze on children’s benefits – which include child benefit, child tax credit and the child element of Universal Credit – is in place until the end of the decade.

End Child Poverty, which is made up of a coalition of more than 100 organisations and charities, has long warned that as prices and inflation rises, low-income families would find it increasingly hard to pay for the same basic essentials.

Sam Royston, chair of End Child Poverty and director of policy and research at the Children’s Society, said the situation was “scandalous”. He continued: “There can be little doubt that the government’s policy of maintaining the benefits freeze despite rising prices is a major contributor to the emerging child poverty crisis.

“No family in modern Britain should be struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and clothe their children. End Child Poverty is calling on the chancellor to end the freeze on children’s benefits, and to invest in interest free credit for low income families, to ensure that poverty doesn’t result in spiralling debt.’

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