Families with young children face huge rise in poverty, research warns

Fiona Simpson
Tuesday, September 14, 2021

One in three children from families with young children are living in poverty, with parents working part-time affected almost as badly as those who are unemployed, new figures show.

A lack of social housing is contributing to a rise in early childhood poverty, according to researchers. Picture: Adobe Stock
A lack of social housing is contributing to a rise in early childhood poverty, according to researchers. Picture: Adobe Stock

While child poverty rates have fluctuated since 2000, there has been a sustained increase since 2013/14, with families with young children experiencing the steepest rise, researchers warn.

The evidence review from the Nuffield Foundation looks at children from families with at least one child under five.

It highlights “inconsistent” government policies around child poverty and changes to the benefit system including the introduction of the “two-child limit” and a reduction in support for working parents as responsible for the rise.

An increase in private renting due to lack of social housing is also a factor the report adds.

The proportion of children from families with a child under five living in poverty increased from 30 per cent in 2013/14 to 36 per cent in 2019/20, the research shows.

Since 2013/14, rates of poverty for families with at least one parent in part-time work increased from 38 per cent to 64 per cent, almost the same level as for children whose parents are unemployed. 

The rate of poverty is also increasing for children with at least one parent in full-time work, from 19 per cent in 2013/14 to 25 per cent in 2019/20.

Researchers also highlight a higher risk of living in poverty for disabled children or children of disabled parents and those from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Between 2017/18 and 2019/20, 44 per cent of children growing up in families where the youngest child is under five and an adult or child has a disability, were living in poverty. 

“This is likely to be an underestimate of the true extent of poverty experienced by families living with a disability because official figures do not take into account the additional living costs that some families face,” the report states.

Over the same time period, almost three in four of children in families from Bangladeshi backgrounds were living in poverty and in several other minority ethnic groups, more than 50 per cent of families were living in poverty, it adds.

Child poverty in families with young children is higher in England and Wales than in Scotland and Northern Ireland, research shows, adding that in England, the North East has the highest rate of early childhood poverty at 46 per cent, followed by London at 41 per cent. Rates in the South West are lowest at 29 per cent.

Carey Oppenheim, early childhood lead at the Nuffield Foundation and author of the report said: “Addressing early childhood poverty requires an approach that provides a financial bedrock for families with young children through improved social security benefits and access to employment, as well as policies that support parental mental health and parenting from the earliest stage of a child’s life.”

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