Child poverty the 'new normal', warn charities

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The End Child Poverty coalition is calling on the Government to develop effective child poverty reduction strategies, as research shows more than half of children in some constituencies are living in poverty.

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Data published by the coalition has found that child poverty rates are highest in big cities, particularly London, Birmingham and Greater Manchester, while the fastest rises in poverty take place in the poorest areas.

Researchers from Loughborough University estimated 500,000 more children are having their lives limited by poverty today than at the start of the decade.

The Local indicators of child poverty 2017/18 report measured the numbers of children in poverty in each constituency, ward and local authority area across Britain.

The local authority areas facing the highest levels of child poverty, after housing costs were taken into account, were:

  • Tower Hamlets - 56.7 per cent
  • Newham - 51.8 per cent
  • Hackney - 48.1 per cent
  • Islington - 47.5 per cent
  • Blackburn with Darwen - 46.9 per cent
  • Westminster - 46.2 per cent
  • Luton - 45.7 per cent
  • Manchester - 45.4 per cent
  • Pendle - 44.7 per cent
  • Peterborough - 43.8 per cent
  • Camden – 43.5 per cent
  • Sandwell – 43.2 per cent

End Child Poverty has called on the Government to set out a credible child poverty reduction strategy, including:

  • Restoring the link between benefits (including housing support) and inflation, and making up for the loss in the real value in children’s benefits as a result of the four-year freeze and previous sub-inflation increases in benefit rates.
  • Ending the two-child limit on child allowances in tax credits and Universal Credit, and reforming Universal Credit.
  • Reversing the cuts and investing in children’s services such as mental health, education, childcare and social care.

Anna Feuchtwang, chair of the End Child Poverty coalition, said, ‘We know what causes child poverty and we know how to end it. We know that the income of less well-off families has been hit by severe real-terms cuts in benefits and by higher housing costs. And we know that work alone does not guarantee a route out of poverty, with two thirds of child poverty occurring in working families.

‘Yet in many areas growing up in poverty is not the exception it’s the rule with more children expected to get swept up in poverty in the coming years, with serious consequences for their life chances. Policymakers can no longer deny the depth of the problem or abandon entire areas to rising poverty. The Government must respond with a credible child poverty-reduction strategy.

‘The Government’s own data shows that child poverty in the UK has been rising steadily in recent years. This just isn’t right.

‘Growing up in poverty means growing up trapped. It restricts a child’s chances of doing well at school, of living a healthy and happy life, and of finding well paid work as adults. We urgently need Government to set a course of action that will free our children from the grip of poverty.’

Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) said the statistics were ‘extremely frightening’.

‘Child poverty doesn’t just determine whether a child can attend a school trip or has a safe and warm place to sleep. There is so much more to it. Left unaddressed, poverty can alter the trajectory of a child’s entire life. We know children living on or below the breadline are more likely to develop mental health issues, become overweight or obese, and die early. They are also more likely to misuse substances.

‘The Government has prioritised child health in recent months with bold plans set out to tackle obesity and support those with mental health difficulties. However, much of this good work will be undone without inequalities being addressed. An ambitious and credible child poverty reduction strategy as set out by the coalition today will help achieve this, but with no targeted help provided for children and families experiencing poverty, and continued cuts to early years services, this progress risks being derailed. The Government must reverse these cuts urgently otherwise ensuring a healthy future for our children and future population will be impossible to grasp.’

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