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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