New data reveals the shocking reality of child poverty in the North East
The North East now has the country’s highest rate of child poverty in the UK, with two in five of those aged 16 or under living below the poverty line. This is up from 37% the previous year and 26% six years ago.
The data comes from the latest report from the End Child Poverty coalition, which represents over 70 organisations united in a vision of a UK free of child poverty. North East Child Poverty Commission, of which our Operations Director Michele Deans is Vice Chair, has produced a regional summary and release of the data.
Some of the council areas with the highest child poverty rates include Newcastle, 42.2%, Middlesbrough, 41.2%, Sunderland, 39.7%, Redcar and Cleveland, 39.3%, South Tyneside, 39.1%, and Hartlepool, 39.0%. All six feature in the top twenty worst performing areas for child poverty in the UK.
“Child poverty should never be accepted as a fact of our society.”
What do these figures mean?
Every day across the charity, our teams see the impact of poverty on babies, children, young people and their families. Sometimes the impact is explicit, such as insufficient access to food, heating, clothing or suitable housing. However, our work deals with many of the less defined impacts of poverty, such as the toll it takes on mental health, relationships and engagement with community life. We have therapists supporting new mums to bond with their baby under difficult circumstances, counselling support for families in crisis and drop-ins for young people to access advice, fun and friendship.
Our Poverty Proofing the School Day team are at the frontline of hearing the effect of poverty on the daily lives of children, collecting insights from 10,000s of pupils each year. They capture their difficult experiences of children in their own voices:
- “I beg my mum to get new things, but I know how stressed she is, then I get stressed.”
- “Sometimes we don’t have enough food – our stomachs decide when we are hungry.”
- “If it was expensive, I wouldn’t ask my mum – she’d feel embarrassed and I’d feel bad.”
- “They talk behind your back [at what you wear] and stand staring at you.”
“To see real change we must educate people, install those with lived experience of poverty into positions of power and hold decision-makers to account.”
A loud call to action
Our CEO, Leigh Elliott has highlighted the challenges charities face in tackling the ‘Wicked Problem’ of poverty, which requires balancing meeting short-term need with campaigning for government intervention and systemic change. In the past year alone, we have loudly advocated for changes to policy on issues that can be game-changing for families on the frontline of poverty, from raising benefits to access to Free Schools Meals to rental reform, as well as distributing research and best practice insights to those who have the power to influence long-term change, such as our Cost of the School Day UK publications. This new data is a fresh call to action for something to be done.
Leigh comments, “The new data from End Child Poverty does not only present a shocking account of child poverty in our region and across the UK but a powerful warning for the future as financial pressures on families continue to grow. Child poverty should never be accepted as a fact of our society. There are many actions the government and other organisations can take to improve the lives of the millions of individuals living in poverty across the UK. We know that the cause of poverty is not choices made by individuals living in poverty, but the choices of decision-makers who do not act in the interest of those with the least in our society, whether by intention or not. To see real change we must educate people, install those with lived experience of poverty into positions of power and hold decision-makers to account.”
Like our peers, End Child Poverty and North East Child Poverty Commission, we are calling for the UK Government to make social security more adequate in the long term, so that every family can afford the essentials:
- For those on Universal Credit, reducing deductions and abolishing the benefit cap and two-child limit.
- Improving access to free and affordable childcare.
- Extending free school meals to all children in families receiving Universal Credit.