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.
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.
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.
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.
*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/