Child poverty becoming the 'new normal', campaigners warn

Campaigners are warning that child poverty is becoming the "new normal" in parts of Britain, after a study published today shows one in 40 council wards have a majority of children living below the breadline.

The End Child Poverty coalition, which commissioned the research Local Indicators of Child Poverty 2017/18, is calling for the government to tackle the issue with a child poverty reduction strategy to reverse cuts and increase investment in children's services.

Researchers at the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University estimated the rates based on local data including unemployment levels and the number of families on tax credits.

The study found that Bastwell and Audley in Blackburn were among areas with the highest percentage of children in poverty after housing costs, with 69.9 per cent and 68.8 per cent respectively.

Parts of north and east London are facing the highest rates of child poverty after housing costs are taken into account, with Tower Hamlets at 56.7 per cent, Newham at 51.8 per cent, Hackney at 48.1 per cent, and Islington at 47.5 per cent.

Children are considered to be growing up in poverty if they live in a household where the income is below 60 per cent of the median income.

For families with one child under 14, this equates to £16,400 a year after housing costs such as rent, mortgage interest payments and service charges are paid.

Other areas in the north of England with high child poverty rates are Blackburn with Darwen (46.9 per cent), Pendle (44.7 per cent) and Manchester (45.4 per cent) - double the UK average of 22 per cent.

Already impoverished areas have also seen the greatest rises in child poverty - with half a million more children affected today than at the start of the decade, the analysis finds.

The proportion of unemployed claimants living in 10 per cent of the worst-hit areas was 21.4 per cent in 2013, rising to 23.4 per cent in 2019.

Figures for the period 2016 to 2018 showed more children lived in the 10 per cent of local authorities where child poverty was worst.

Some 16.9 per cent of children lived in these most deprived 10 per cent of local authorities, up from 14.9 per cent the previous year.

Among the coalition's calls are for the government to end its two-child limit on child allowances in tax credits and Universal Credit and to reform Universal Credit.

Anna Feuchtwang, chair of the coalition, formed of more than 70 organisations including charities, faith groups and trade unions, said the income of less well-off families had been hit by cuts in benefits and higher housing costs.

"We know that work alone does not guarantee a route out of poverty, with two-thirds of child poverty occurring in working families," she said.

Feuchtwang said: "We know what causes child poverty and we know how to end it.

"Yet in many areas, growing up in poverty is the new normal, with more children expected to get swept up in poverty in the coming years, with serious consequences for their life chances.

"The government's own data shows that child poverty in the UK has been rising steadily in recent years.

"Policymakers can no longer deny the depth of the problem or abandon entire areas to rising poverty."

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