Gwen Dalziel, a School Research and Delivery Practitioner with our Poverty Proofing and Participation Service, reflects on the latest shocking child poverty statistics:
We are greeted today by new concerning statistics showing the extent of child poverty. The statistics released for the financial year 19/20 show a significant increase in levels of poverty and are a stark reminder of the inequalities faced by many families.
Today 30 per cent of children in the UK are living in poverty. There were 4.3 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2019-20.
I feel so sad to see this. A concise and unavoidable summary of our failure to create equality, security and comfort for all. It is really important that we take the time to face up to these statistics. Too often politicians, certain sections of the media and society in general try to brush away these numbers by feeding us misinformation about poverty having solely behavioural causes and this is simply not the case.
Three quarters (75 per cent) of children living in poverty in 2019/20 were in households with at least one working adult – up from two thirds (67%) in 2014/15. This is everyone’s issue and if the pandemic has taught us anything it is that no one is immune.
North East England shows the greatest growth in child poverty over the past five years and has risen by a third, taking it from below the UK average to the second highest of any region. This clearly demonstrates the value of our Poverty Proofing work. I feel proud that we strive to mitigate the effects of poverty and unfortunately the demand for expertise will continue to rise.
We also need to read these statistics with caution and remember two key factors. Firstly, the poverty line has been moved, the median has gone down. This means that the income level at which a family can be considered in poverty has reduced. While it is harder to fall below the poverty threshold, there is still an increase, masking potentially much higher rates. Secondly these statistics are pre-pandemic. We have yet to see the devastating effect of the Covid crisis reflected in the statistics. Sobering thoughts that point to much higher, concealed levels of poverty and a trend that is set to continue.
There needs to be a response. I implore us all to do whatever we can, and in whatever capacity, to try and reverse this trend. Our expertise allows us to advise schools and organisations about best practice to alleviate the disparity experienced by those in poverty but what we really need is to eradicate the structural causes, to create a fairer system for our children. A great example would be not to revoke the £20 Universal Credit uplift. Let’s forge forward and ensure our children’s life chances, access to education and opportunities are not influenced by circumstances outside their control.