Number of children in poverty up by 400,000 in last five years


According to new research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, four million children are currently living in poverty.

Looking back to the last five years, this is an increase of 400,000 children who are living in poverty.

Children have consistently faced the highest poverty rate throughout the last 20 years, the report said.

Although employment has increased, in-work poverty has also gone up, according to the findings, with 56 per cent of people in poverty part of a working family, compared to 39 per cent 20 years ago. 

Of all family types, working single parents have been swept fastest into poverty, with three in ten now struggling to stay afloat compared with just two in ten a decade ago, the report added.

More than half of people in lone parent families in London were found to live in poverty, the highest rate in the UK.

The foundation also found regional differences in poverty rates, with higher levels in London, the North of England, Midlands and Wales, and the lowest in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the South, excluding London.

Meanwhile, families on low pay reported their feelings of financial insecurity were worsened by the cost and availability of transport and childcare, especially for those working in sectors such as care, retail and hospitality.

As a result of the findings, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is calling on Government to focus on:

  • Good jobs in areas where unemployment is highest, and employment support for disabled people and carers.
  • Improved earnings for low-income working families, with more security, better training and opportunities to progress, particularly in part-time jobs.
  • A strengthened benefits system that provides the anchor people need in tough times and can be viewed as an essential public service.
  • An increase in low-cost housing for families on low incomes, and increased support for people with high housing costs, as well as support for people living in the private rented sector.

Claire Ainsley, executive director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said, ‘The new Government has an historic opportunity as we enter the 2020s. Past successes in recent decades show that it is possible for the UK to loosen the grip of poverty among those most at risk. But this progress has begun to unravel and it will take sustained effort across the country and throughout the governments of the UK to unlock poverty. 

‘Millions of families care for each other, raise their children and work hard without any guarantee that they will escape poverty - governments, employers and landlords all have a role to play in changing this. It’s not right that so many are unable to build a firm foundation to their lives because their jobs are insecure or they can’t find a home they can afford.

‘Without a better deal for working families, and a social security system that provides a public service for all of us, the UK faces further division and deeper poverty. That better deal needs to encompass the basics we all need – from building new homes to funding social security and bringing better jobs to all parts of the country.’

Action for Children’s director of policy and campaigns, Imran Hussain, added, ‘No parent should have to face the awful prospect of their youngster sitting without a plate of food to eat after school, skip dinner so their child has a meal, or have to rely on foodbanks.

‘Politicians are telling us austerity has ended but every day at Action for Children our frontline services say child poverty levels are at the worst they can remember with parents coming to us desperate for help to keep their families warm and well-fed.

‘Years of crippling cuts combined with the troubled roll-out of universal credit have left so many families fighting to keep their heads above water. The Government must act now to throw them a lifeline by doing more to support parents to work and restoring the real value of children’s benefits to what they were before they were cut.’

A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said, ‘Tackling poverty will always be a priority for this Government. We know that getting into work is the best route out of poverty and there are more people in work than ever before. Wages are outstripping inflation and absolute poverty is lower than in 2010.

‘We know that some need more help, which is why we spend over £95billion a year on working-age benefits. Millions will see their benefit payments rise further from April and we’re also boosting the incomes of pensioners each year through the triple lock.’

  • The report is available here 

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