Child Poverty & Education

Child poverty rising sharply

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Child poverty rising sharply in the North and Midlands
By Graham Whitham

New research published this week by End Child Poverty finds that child poverty has risen most sharply in parts of the Midlands and Northern towns and cities in the past four years.

The research looks specifically at child poverty rates after housing costs are taken into account. Measuring poverty in this way often highlights the impact high housing costs have on household income, with many of the areas with the highest after housing cost poverty rates not surprisingly being in London. However, over the five years leading up to 2018/19, rents in other parts of the country have risen by the same amount as in the capital. This is acting to drive up poverty rates in places across the North. Increasingly this means that families are finding that, once their housing costs are paid, they do not have enough money to meet their children’s needs and are left no option but to turn to crisis help, like food banks, and are increasingly reliant on free school meals.

Manchester and Oldham are among the areas that have seen the highest increases in child poverty rates after housing costs in the country. The table below shows the child poverty rates in each of Greater Manchester’s ten boroughs in 2014/15 and 2018/19, and the increase between those years. Child poverty increased in all but one Greater Manchester borough during that period. The areas in our city region with the lowest child poverty rates in 2014/15 either saw relatively small increases in the five years up to 2018/19 (Stockport seeing an increase of 0.2% and Wigan an increase of 1.7%), or a decrease (Trafford seeing a fall of 0.9%). In contrast, Manchester had the highest child poverty rate in Greater Manchester in both 2014/15 and 2018/19 and saw the second highest increase over this period (7%).

Local authority Child poverty (measured after housing costs) rate in 2014/15 Child poverty rate in 2018/19 Percentage point change (2015-19)
Bolton 32.7% 39.0% 6.3%
Bury 30.9% 33.8% 2.9%
Manchester 33.6% 40.6% 7.0%
Oldham 31.8% 39.9% 8.1%
Rochdale 32.4% 37.7% 5.3%
Salford 32.5% 34.8% 2.3%
Stockport 25.7% 25.9% 0.2%
Tameside 31.4% 34.8% 3.4%
Trafford 24.0% 23.1% -0.9%
Wigan 29.1% 30.8% 1.7%

 

These difference are largely explained by variations in wage growth and housing costs. They also illustrate concerns that government policies that are acting to drive up poverty (e.g. cuts and reforms to benefits) are driving up poverty in already disadvantaged areas.

In response to the research, End Child Poverty is calling for a government strategy for tackling child poverty. GMPA is supporting this call, and the following asks:

•  Uprating of housing assistance in line with inflation;

•  Retain the £20 uplift in Universal Credit introduced at the start of the pandemic, which the Government has indicated will end in April 2021;

•  End the benefit cap and the two-child limit on benefits;

GMPA Director Graham Whitham for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, GMPA Director

•  Invest in all children with an increase to child benefit;

•  Extend Free School Meals to all families in receipt of Universal Credit and those with No Recourse to Public Funds.

You can read the full report and download the data from the End Child Poverty website.

GMPA is a steering group member of End Child Poverty.

 

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Focusing on the causes of poverty

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End Child Poverty Campaign, Marcus Rashford and focusing on the causes of poverty
By Graham Whitham

The End Child Poverty Campaign (ECP), of which GMPA is a steering group member, has written to Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford to congratulate him on drawing attention to the problem of food poverty among families with children. Marcus is backing calls in the National Food Strategy for expansion of free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent legacy benefit, expanding the school holiday food and activities programme and increasing the value of Healthy Start vouchers.

It’s brilliant that Marcus has been able to generate such positive coverage for the issue of child food poverty and we fully support his call for an extension of free school meals to all children whose families are in receipt of Universal Credit. However, it is important that we don’t see food provision as a solution to poverty, whether that be poverty effecting children or other groups of the population.

It is imperative that the Government puts tackling child poverty at the heart of its post-pandemic economic recovery if we are to see an end to families having to rely on food handouts and vouchers to feed their children.

That is why GMPA supports ECP’s call for Government to set out a comprehensive and ambitious child poverty strategy that looks not just at ensuring children have enough to eat, but tackling the causes of low income and the reason families can’t afford adequate food in the first place. This would include strengthening the social security system by increasing child benefit by £10 a week; and ending the benefit cap, the two-child limit and the five week wait for Universal Credit. As well as taking action to ensure that companies pay a real living wage; addressing high rents and the cost of childcare; and reinvesting in children’s services.

Sian (GMPA’s recently appointed Food Poverty Programme Coordinator) set out GMPA’s response to the National Food Strategy in our last newsletter. Whilst a national conversation about food poverty is welcome (and necessary), the strategy recommendations do not focus enough on fixing these underlying causes of poverty.

GMPA Director Graham Whitham for GM Poverty ActionIn Greater Manchester it is important that we use what resources and powers we do have to support people in a way that prevents and reduces poverty, and that gives people maximum dignity, choice and control in the way support is provided. This should involve identifying opportunities to boost household income by increasing benefit take-up and widespread adoption of the Real Living Wage, as well as providing people with access to money rather than in-kind support such as food parcels and vouchers (see our ‘Cash First’ briefing for further discussion about the benefits of this approach).

Graham Whitham
GMPA Director

 

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Child Poverty

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Getting child poverty back on the national agenda
By Graham Whitham  Director, GMPA

End Child Poverty logo
Last Thursday GMPA joined other End Child Poverty Coalition (ECP) members on a Zoom call with Angela Raynor MP (Deputy Leader of the Labour Party), Jonathan Reynolds MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions) and Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Child Poverty, and now also Shadow Secretary of State for Education) to discuss the opposition’s policy approach to tackling child poverty. In light of that conversation and the government’s recent U-turn on Free School Meal (FSM) vouchers during the summer holidays, it feels like child poverty is back on the national agenda for the first time in years.

  • FSM meal provision during the school holidays is just one of the many things that needs to happen to drive down child poverty across the country. There have been several calls on government in recent months to do more on poverty, as well as research reports highlighting the scale of the challenge facing the UK. For example, Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have issued a joint call for a £20 weekly increase in the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit to help stave off millions of families falling into financial hardship over the coming months. This would support up to 4 million families and 8 million children at a time when, according to research published by Save the Children, 70% of families have had to cut back on food and other essentials, while half have fallen behind on rent or other household bills, sparking fears of more hardship ahead if unemployment rises further.
  • Child Poverty Action Group’s The cost of learning in lockdown report details results of a survey of 3600 parents and carers and 1300 children and young people. The survey found that Covid-19 magnified some of the factors that contribute to negative outcomes associated with children growing up in poverty. The low-income parents and carers responding to the survey were just as likely to be concerned with helping their children to continue learning through lockdown. However, they reported facing significantly more stress and worry around home learning and household finances than parents and carers in better off homes.
  • Data released by Citizens Advice shows the nature of the issues for which people are seeking support. Citizens Advice is warning that its data shows people are becoming increasingly concerned about redundancy, as the nation moves into a new phase where government support packages are scaled back. For 66 days straight, the charity’s page on being furloughed was the most viewed on its website. On June 5th, the numbers of visitors to the charity’s main redundancy webpage took the number one spot from being furloughed.
Graham Whitham, Director GMPA for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, Director GMPA

You’ll note that all three shadow ministers that ECP met with are MPs for Greater Manchester constituencies, and it is a helpful link for GMPA as we seek to ensure poverty is central to the local recovery from the pandemic. In our last newsletter we discussed what a local framework for tackling poverty could look like. We followed this up with a webinar last week – Poverty and the recovery – which many of you attended. Please keep an eye on our newsletter and website as we develop this work further.

 

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Child Poverty

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GMPA joins calls for national action on poverty

By Graham Whitham

Even before the devastating impact of Covid-19 on household incomes, child poverty has been rising rapidly in some of the poorest communities in Britain,leaving growing numbers of children cut adrift and ill equipped to cope with the impact of the pandemic.

As a member of the End Child Poverty Coalition, GMPA is joining calls on the Government to take seriously the four year rise in child poverty and to commit to an ambitious and comprehensive strategy to end child poverty in the UK as it plans the nation’s recovery from Coronavirus.

New analysis of government poverty data undertaken by Loughborough University, on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition (ECP), tracks four years of child poverty across Britain before housing costs are taken into account (2014/15 – 2018/19). The analysis highlights those parts of the country where children are most likely to have been swept into poverty since 2014.

The research shows that the North West of England experienced the third highest increase in child poverty between 2014/15 to 2018/19 (see table 1), and that the largest increases in child poverty happened in already deprived areas. Among Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities, Oldham saw the largest increases in child poverty as it rose from 28.7% to 38% (see table 2). Stockport and Trafford were the only Greater Manchester boroughs to experiences increases in child poverty lower than the increase across the country as a whole.

Table 1 Change in child poverty by region 2014/15 to 2018/19

RegionChild poverty rate 2014/15Child poverty rate 2018/19% point increase
NORTH EAST17.3%23.7%6.5%
WEST MIDLANDS19.1%23.8%4.7%
NORTH WEST18.5%23.0%4.5%
YORKSHIRE AND HUMBERSIDE19.2%23.4%4.2%
SCOTLAND14.5%18.1%3.6%
LONDON14.2%17.5%3.4%
SOUTH EAST10.8%13.7%2.9%
EAST13.1%15.4%2.2%
EAST MIDLANDS16.6%16.6%0.0%
WALES18.4%18.1%-0.2%
SOUTH WEST15.0%13.4%-1.6%

The pandemic has underlined the need for urgent action to address child poverty. Recent ONS analysis, carried out 17-27 April 2020, found that 23% of adults said the coronavirus was affecting their household finances. The most common impact in this group was reduced income (70%), and nearly half saying they had needed to use savings or borrow to cover living costs. A number of announcements over the last month or so will be helping some people. The government’s furlough scheme and increase in support through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit will help. Although welcome, these measures are unlikely to be enough to stop the pandemic pushing many households into financial hardship, either in the short or long-term.

There are additional measures GMPA would like to see, and we have been adding our voice to national campaigns calling for changes which include:

  • Substantially increasing Child Benefit. This is the quickest and most efficient means of getting extra money into the pockets of families;
  • Ending the two-child limit that restricts benefit payments to the first two children in the household;
  • Scrapping the benefit cap that limits the total amount of support a household can receive through the benefit system; and
  • Providing extra funding towards council’s local welfare assistance schemes so that they can meet the extra demand for support over the coming weeks and months.

Table 2 Percent of children in households below 60% median, before housing costs,
by local authority 2014/15 to 2018/19

2014/152018/19Percentage point increase,
2014/15 to 2018/19
Oldham28.7%38.0%9.3%
Bolton24.8%32.2%7.4%
Manchester27.8%33.6%5.8%
Tameside19.4%24.7%5.3%
Rochdale25.3%30.2%4.9%
Bury18.2%22.9%4.7%
Wigan16.6%20.2%3.6%
Salford20.7%24.0%3.3%
GB Total15.6%18.4%2.8%
Stockport12.6%15.2%2.6%
Trafford11.1%12.8%1.7%

 

For the full report from ECP, please go to the website

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New child poverty figures

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New local child poverty figures show worrying rises in poorest parts of the UK

By Graham Whitham

Today the End Child Poverty coalition launched updated local child poverty figures. With around three in ten children living in relative poverty in the UK, the local figures allow us to understand what those numbers mean at a local authority, parliamentary constituency and ward level. Not surprisingly there are huge variations across the country. Worryingly the figures show that child poverty is rising particularly rapidly in the most disadvantaged parts of major cities, especially London, Birmingham and Greater Manchester.Child poverty figures for GM Poverty Action

We are used to seeing figures that show Greater Manchester is home to some of the highest levels of poverty and deprivation in the country. These figures show that in some wards in our city region more than 50% of children are living below the poverty line.

The figures also details huge variations within Greater Manchester. A staggering 62% of children are living below the poverty line in Werneth in Oldham, compared to 13.4% in Worsley in Salford.Child Poverty nfographic for GM Poverty Action

There are also major variations within individual boroughs. The ward with the highest level of child poverty in Bolton is Great Lever, with a child poverty rate of 55%. The ward with the lowest rate in the same borough is Bromley Cross at 18.5%. Despite these variations, all ten boroughs in Greater Manchester are home to thousands of children living in poverty. The main figures are detailed at the end of this article.

The increases in child poverty seen across the UK in recent years are largely the result of cuts to working age benefits. Parents have seen the value of tax credits, Child Benefit and other support cut in recent years. The figures also underline how seemingly positive employment figures – low unemployment and record employment levels – aren’t translating into reductions in poverty and improved living standards. Too many people are trapped in low paying jobs or unable to get sufficient hours to work their way out of poverty.

Chancellor Phillip Hammond recently hinted at another significant increase in the minimum wage. This would be welcome but must sit alongside reversals in cuts to benefits and measures that increase in-work progression.

Alongside launching the local child poverty figures, End Child Poverty is calling on the Government to set out an ambitious and credible child poverty-reduction strategy, including:

  • Restoring the link between benefits (including housing support) and inflation, and then making up for the loss in the real value in children’s benefits as a result of the 4-year freeze and previous sub-inflation increases in benefit rates.
  • Ending the two-child limit on child allowances in tax credits and universal credit and reforming Universal Credit;
  • Reversing the cuts and investing in children’s services such as mental health, education, childcare and social care.
Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

As a member of End Child Poverty, Greater Manchester Poverty Action these calls.  We would also like to see the Government provide more support for local stakeholders to tackle poverty in their area. A national poverty strategy could help create a framework and provide guidance for local authorities and their partners to address child poverty  locally.

Mapping of anti-poverty strategies in 209 top-tier local authority areas in England and Wales by GMPA in 2018 found that 31 of the 209 have a child or family poverty strategy in place (for example Manchester) and a further 80 incorporate a focus on child and family poverty within a broader strategy (for example Salford) or set of strategies (for example Wigan). Whilst many local areas are pushing ahead with their own strategic approaches, the lack of poverty strategies in many areas highlights the need for greater leadership on this issue by central government.


Key findings*

ECP table 1 2019 for GM Poverty ActionECP Table 2.1 for GM Poverty Action

*Please note the figures we have shown here are for poverty after housing costs (AHC) are taken into account.

End Child Poverty have also published before housing costs (BHC) figures. The data for each Ward, Constituency and Local Authority is available in full at  http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/poverty-in-your-area-2019/

 

 

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Rise in Child Poverty

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Latest government data shows a worrying rise in child poverty

By Graham Whitham

At the end of last month the government released the latest UK poverty statistics. The child poverty figures gained the most attention with the data showing a rise in the number of children living in deep or ‘severe’ poverty. This means that of the 4.1 million children in relative poverty, 2.8 million are in ‘severe’ poverty. There are 3.7 million children in poverty under the alternative absolute poverty measure.

Whilst pensioner poverty has remained low over recent year, there are signs that this is also starting to increase. The graph below shows how the poverty rate varies for different household types:UK Poverty Rates April 2019 for GM Poverty Action

Many readers will be aware of the rise in in-work poverty in recent years. An incredible 70% of children living in poverty are now in households where at least one adult is in work. Whilst children in households where no one is in work are still at greater risk of poverty, the rise of in-work poverty is a sign that employment is not an effective route out of poverty for many families.

The figures also showed a rise in inequality, with the incomes of the rich growing at a faster rate than those on lower incomes.

Some are projecting that the child poverty rate will reach a record 37% by 2022, breaking the record high of 34% set in the early 90s, unless action is taken. In response to the figures being published, End Child Poverty (ECP) called on all the major political parties to develop an ambitious and coherent child poverty reduction strategy ahead of the next General Election. ECP also wants to see an end to the benefit freeze and a full reversal of the two-child limit in his November budget.

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham, Director of GMPA

GMPA is a member of End Child Poverty and supports these calls. We are highly concerned about the impact of ongoing welfare cuts in Greater Manchester, where an estimated 620,000 residents are living in poverty.

ECP logo for GM Poverty Action

 

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Cost of a child 2018

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CPAG’s 2018 Cost of a Child report shows what it costs to raise a child to age 18, based on what the public thinks is a minimum standard of living.

The overall cost of a child (including rent and childcare) is £150,753 for a couple and £183,335 for a lone parent.

A combination of rising prices, benefits and tax credits freezes, the benefit cap and two-child limit, cuts to housing benefits, bedroom tax and the rolling out of universal credit have hit family budgets hard. Life has been getting progressively tougher for families on low or modest incomes over the past ten years, with families on in-work and out-of-work benefits hardest hit.

Even families with two parents currently working full time on the ‘national living wage’ are 11% (£49 per week) short of the income the public defines as an acceptable, no-frills living standard.  For lone parents, even with a reasonably paid job (on median earnings) will be 15% (£56 per week) short of an adequate income because of the high cost of childcare.

Many families – both in and out of work – get support from the social security system to help free them from the worst effects of poverty. Next year universal credit will be rolled out to everyone claiming one or more of the benefits it will replace. But the way the government plans to do this risks increasing hardship.

For a start, the way the government wants the 3 million people affected to move onto universal credit puts all the risk on to the shoulders of claimants – many of whom are vulnerable.

CPAG are asking MPs to persuade the government to change their plans. You can help by writing to your MP.

CPAG have proposed an alternative system which puts the needs of claimants at the heart of the process, and greatly reduces the risk of families facing destitution. You can help them make the case for this approach by asking your MP to push for changes. MPs will have chance to debate these rules and vote on them, but they can’t make changes once they’ve reached parliament. So the time to act is now.

Half of all children in the UK live in families who will receive universal credit when the rollout is complete. Can we ensure that these children don’t face hardship in the process of moving on to universal credit?

The full CPAG Cost of a Child 2018 report is available on their website

 

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A new measure of poverty

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By Graham Whitham

Another week, another story about high levels of poverty in the UK. This time from the Social Metrics Commission who have developed a new measure of poverty. You might understandably ask whether we needed a new measure of poverty but bear with me, this one has a backstory.

Back in 2010 the Labour Government passed the Child Poverty Act. It set in stone four child poverty reduction targets to be met in 2020/21. Fast-forward a few months and the incoming Coalition Government and think tanks such as Policy Exchange, set out concerns about the way in which poverty was being measured. The argument was that the previous government’s approach had been too narrow. Those making such arguments often undermined their position by referring to ‘the child poverty measure’, when in fact four measures had been adopted and sometimes by a simple failure to understand the difference between mean and median averages.

Things came to a head in 2012 when the Government published a poorly written consultation on child poverty measurement. It was rightly panned. The government had reached a dead-end; critical of the measures as set out in the Child Poverty Act, but unable to set out an adequate replacement.

Iain Duncan Smith scrapped the 2020 targets and, in their place, came a duty to report on levels of educational attainment and the number of children in workless households. Given that neither of these things are measures of child poverty, it didn’t exactly solve the problem of government having no meaningful measure or measures of poverty in place around which it could build a coherent strategy.

To overcome the impasse, former special adviser to IDS – Philippa Stroud – set up the Social Metrics Commission. She brought together a panel of experts to establish a new measure of poverty around which a consensus could
be reached.

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

The results were published last week, showing more than 14 million people, including 4.5 million children, are living in poverty in the UK. The new measure does some things the measures in the 2010 Act don’t, for example taking into account savings as well as income and looking at household outgoings.

Whether this has all been worthwhile is another question. It is hoped that it will act as a catalyst for the Government to re-establish a meaningful agenda on poverty.  Eight years have been wasted arguing about how poverty should be measured, and these arguments are part of the reason why there is a such a vacuum when it comes to government policy. Only radical steps to halt soaring child rates will have made the work of the Social Mobility Commission worth it.

 

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