The End Chid Poverty campaign has raised fears over the impact of the Coronavirus on children as the latest Government figures show child poverty has risen again.
Government figures released today show that even before the devastating impact of Coronavirus child poverty across the UK has risen again.
In 2018/19, 4.2 million children were living in relative poverty, after housing costs have been taken into account - a rise from 3.6 million in 2010/11 - and they remain the most likely part of the population to be living in a low-income household.
Most alarming is the continuing increase of in-work poverty – with 72% of poor children now living in working families, up from 58% in 2010/11, with most of this increase being in families where all adults are in work.
The End Child Poverty coalition is calling for more targeted support for children living in poverty as families across the UK are affected by school closures, loss of income, worry and uncertainty that has come with the Coronavirus outbreak.
Anna Feuchtwang, Chair of the End Child Poverty coalition and Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau said:
“We welcome the steps taken by Government on statutory sick pay, employee support for PAYE and universal credit. But today’s child poverty figures must focus the Government’s mind on those least able to cope with the impact of Covid 19 and those least likely to be heard advocating for what they need.
“The Government is responding to an unprecedented crisis with demands being made from all parts of the economy. However, the Government must recognise that while we are all affected by the crisis we are not all equally prepared for its consequences.
“Children trapped in poverty already have their lives restricted. Many of them will be living in poor accommodation, reliant on school meals and without the means for effective home-schooling. We believe there is more the Government can do, not only to ensure children are kept safe and have their immediate needs met, but to ensure more children are not pulled into poverty and those already living in poverty are not further disadvantaged by the crisis.”
As the Government seeks to protect the economy and families from the consequences of Covid-19, child poverty campaigners are urging the Government to understand where the rises in child poverty have been greatest, in order to ensure their actions can be targeted at the most vulnerable. And it is the rise of in-work child poverty that is of most concern.
The data shows that a quarter of children in working families are now living in poverty. The increase in the risk of in-work (child) poverty is greatest among:
- Lone parents in part-time work: up from 23% in 2010/11 to 41% in 2018/19
- Couples where one partner is working full-time and the other is not working: up from 29% to 38%
- Couples in self-employment: up from 30% to 34%
Child tax credit has been an important supplement to family incomes, protecting many children from poverty. But recent cuts to this benefit are now having an impact with the risk of child poverty in families in receipt of child tax credit now at 48% rather than 33% in 2010/11.
The data demonstrates the importance of measures already taken by Government. End Child Poverty is asking the Government to consider further interventions that are specifically targeted at children, in order to protect those children most at risk of the economic impact of Covid-19:
* An increase of £10 to child benefit
* The suspension of the two-child limit and benefit cap
* Immediate local authority co-ordination to support schools or hubs to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children at risk of abuse or neglect or with special educational needs
Anna Feuchtwang said:
“Today’s child poverty figures give us a grave warning of the size of the task facing our country. As a just and compassionate society we are all concerned about the social and economic impact of the pandemic on our children. The emergency measures introduced by the Government demonstrate the importance of a strong safety net that we can all rely on in times of need. With more targeted support for children we have the opportunity to put in place measures that can not only help families through the crisis but that could transform the lives of children in the long-term, releasing them from the grip of poverty that for too long has put them at a disadvantage to their peers.”
Case study: Community Centre Manager
Candice James is Manager at Loughborough Community Centre based at the Max Roach Centre in Lambeth. Candice also manages community engagement in the Coldharbour ward for the Lambeth Early Action Partnership. She said:
“Ordinarily, our community centre is a safe haven for children aged 0 to 13. We provide a nursery for pre-schoolers, a Stay and Play service for young children and their parents, and our adventure playground gives children aged eight to thirteen the chance to let of steam.
“It is so upsetting to see centres like ours closed as they are lifeline for families. These families rely on support in their communities to get by and the parents I speak to are plainly stressed and scared.
“The biggest worry they face is financial. Nearly all the families we work with have trouble making ends meet. Most of them rely on benefits in one form or another, yet their meagre household budgets are stretched as essential items get more costly and difficult to find. I’ve heard first hand from new mothers panicking because they can’t afford the formula milk or nappies they need. Older children are missing out on the one good meal they were guaranteed each day from the school canteen. Normally our centre would provide some of those meals during the school holidays but now we can’t.
“Job insecurity is a worry too. Many members of the families we work with are on zero-hour contracts and once they lose their job or their income there is a delay of weeks before their benefit claims are set up and money starts to trickle in.
1. End Child Poverty is a coalition of 70 UK charities, community organisations, faith groups, Unions and professional bodies calling for the Government to commit to ending child poverty in the UK through ambitious policy reforms www.endchildpoverty.org.uk
2. The Households Below Average Income data for 2018/19, released by the Department for Work and Pensions is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/households-below-average-income-hbai--2#latest-release