Child poverty reaches record level, as charities call for ‘credible’ prevention plan


The number of children in poverty has risen to 4.3 million, new Government figures show, and the full picture is likely to be worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic, charities warn.  The number of children in poverty was at an 11-year record high in the year before the pandemic, according to the latest ‘Households below average income’ annual statistics, published on 25 March.

Government figures show that the number of children living in relative poverty after housing costs rose from 4.1 million in 2018/19 to 4.3 million in 2019/20,  and amounts to one in three (31 per cent) of all children in the UK. This compares to 3.6 million children who were in poverty 11 years ago (2010/11).

Just over half (51 per cent) of all children in poverty were in families with a youngest child under the age of five, and 47 per cent of children in families with three or more children.

The figures also revealed:

  • Three-quarters (75 per cent) of poor children lived in working families in 2019-20 – up from 72 per cent in 2018-19 – and 12 per cent of poor children had a self-employed parent;
  • Poor families have fallen deeper into poverty: 2.9 million children were in deep poverty – 600,000 more than in 2010/11;
  • A total of 1.7 million children went hungry because their family could not afford enough food;
  • Almost half (49 per cent) of lone parents are now in poverty (up from 44 per cent in 2018-19).

With the data only covering the period up until the end of March 2020, charities have warned the picture now is likely to be worse due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and are urging the Government to provide more financial support.

Alison Garnham, Child Poverty Action Group chief executive, said: ‘This dismal data shows child poverty levels are now devastatingly high, and that’s before we see the impact of the pandemic. Children and their families will pay the price unless Government acts urgently. Ministers must develop a clear plan to prevent child poverty – and raising child benefit would be a good place to start.

‘Increasing child benefit by £10 per week would lift 450,000 children from poverty. One year from now we should not have to look at data showing even more children have fallen into poverty because of Government inaction.’

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said the Government was ‘in denial’ over child poverty, which ‘continues to rise and threatens to torpedo its flagship plans for levelling up’.

He called for the Government to bring forward ‘a credible plan to reduce poverty’, that could ‘start by making permanent the vital uplift in Universal Credit’.

Dan Paskins, UK director at Save the Children, said it was ‘deeply disheartening’ to see this rise in child poverty in the UK.

‘Behind the statistics, there are too many families who struggle financially, day in and day out, with far reaching consequences for their children. Parents we work with tell us they’re having to go without meals or electricity just to make sure their children have food to eat. One mum told us she is burning candles because she cannot afford to pay for electricity. This just isn’t right.

“The £20 uplift to universal credit was a vital helping hand and is likely to have helped prevent a surge in poverty through this crisis – but it is set to be taken away in September, just as the furlough scheme ends and more people will lose their jobs. Save the Children is urging the UK Government to keep this uplift for another year, to prevent plunging families into deeper dire straits amidst financial uncertainty,” he said.

Source Early Years Educator

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