The End Child Poverty coalition with Loughborough University has published an analysis of new Government data that tracks four years of child poverty across Britain before housing costs are taken into account (2014/15-2018/19). The report highlights those parts of the country where children are most likely to have been swept into poverty since 2014.
According to the research, the North East of England has seen the starkest increase in the country with numbers rising by 6.5 percentage points over the past four years alone, leaving families in the region ill equipped to cope with the impact of the pandemic.
The worst hit area in the region is Middlesbrough where over a third (37%) of children are living in poverty, before housing costs are taken into account. That’s closely followed by Newcastle (28%), Hartlepool (27%), South Tyneside (26%), and Gateshead (21%).
Even before the devastating impact of Covid-19 on household incomes, almost a quarter of children (24%) in the North East were living in poverty – and the region has seen the most dramatic rise in the proportion of children below the breadline.
Ambitious strategy needed to end child poverty
The End Child Poverty coalition is calling on the Government to take seriously the four year rise in child poverty – predominantly in working families – 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, which campaigners fear will only have deepened child poverty and drawn more families below the poverty line.
Recent ONS analysis, carried out 17-27 April 2020, shows just under one in four adults (23%) said the Coronavirus crisis 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.
Campaigners are fearful that the added impact of Covid-19 on household budgets could push struggling families over the edge and are urging the Government to immediately increase the amount of money in families’ pockets. The coalition is calling on the Government to set out an ambitious strategy to reverse the increases and make ending child poverty a priority for the nation’s future economic recovery.
Some children six times more likely to grow up in poverty
The report’s analysis shows how unequal the country is with children in some parts six times more likely to be growing up in poverty than in less deprived areas. While child poverty is deteriorating across better and worse off areas of the country proportionately, those places starting off with a high rate see more additional children pulled into poverty.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at fellow charity, Action for Children, said:“We may all be experiencing the storm of Coronavirus together, but we are not all in the same boat.
Children in the North East are some of the most exposed to the devastating economic consequences of this crisis and are at severe risk of being swept deeper into poverty. Families who were already struggling to keep their heads above water are now living in fear that they can’t afford to keep their children and babies warm and well fed.
“That’s why we are asking the Government to strengthen the social security system which is there to hold us steady during tough times, by immediately increasing household income for struggling families. Ending child poverty must be at the heart our plan for economic recovery, so that when this crisis is over all children can enjoy a safe and happy life, thrive at school and have opportunities for the future.”
Jane Streather, chair of the North East Child Poverty Commission, said: “It’s deeply concerning that the North East has seen the biggest increase in child poverty rates over the last few years, and these figures demonstrate just how many families in our region were already struggling to make ends meet, even before the Coronavirus crisis hit.
“Of course this terrible pandemic is not only exacerbating existing inequalities, but seeing many more families in our region being pulled into the grip of poverty as a result. It’s not right that tens of thousands of children and young people in the North East are facing such hardship and Ministers must act urgently to boost the incomes of families.
“The Government must also put a comprehensive strategy to end child poverty front and centre of the post-Covid recovery, with a social security system which provides a genuine safety net in difficult times. For children, that must include a significant rise in Child Benefit.”