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Child poverty is an affront to fairness
Shocking new statistics published today by the End Child Poverty Coalition put paid to the notion that Britain is a meritocracy
“I endured the physical impacts of poverty such as owning little furniture, sleeping on the floor and going without the luxury of heating and hot water during the winter. I have experienced rationing and going without food at some points especially during the half terms when I no longer receive free school lunch meals. Living in a low income family even prevented me travelling to school – and my mum would tell the school we were ill because we had no money for petrol to take us….”
Iz, aged 17, an End Child Poverty Youth Ambassador
Sadly, Iz’s experience is one shared by millions of children across the UK. We are one of the 101 members of the End Child Poverty Coalition, a group of organisations who campaign together to call for an end to child poverty across the UK.
Today the Coalition, together with Loughborough University, has published new research showing levels of child poverty across every Westminster Constituency and Local Authority in the UK. The findings are shocking. 29% of children in the UK are living in poverty - which means that 4.2 million children were living in poverty in the UK in 2021-22.
Birmingham constituencies had the highest levels of child poverty in the UK, with child poverty in Birmingham Ladywood at 54.6%.
The local authority with the highest rate of child poverty in the UK was Tower Hamlets in London, with a child poverty rate of 47.5%.
The research tells us not only where families experience the highest levels of child poverty, but also which types of families are more likely to be living in poverty:
71% of children who were in poverty, after the cost of housing is taken into account, were living in a family where at least one adult was working.
44% of children in single-parent families were in poverty, after the cost of housing is taken into account. This is compared with just 25% of children in two-parent families.
The poverty rate for children in families with three or more children was 42%, compared with 23% and 22% among children in families with one or two children.
Children living in a family where someone is disabled had a poverty rate of 36% after housing costs were factored in, compared with 25% for children living in families where no-one was disabled.
47% of children in Asian or Asian British households and 53% of those in Black households were in poverty after housing costs, compared with just 25% of those where the head of household was White.
At the Fairness Foundation, we have recently been looking at wealth inequality, with a particular focus on the distorting impacts of extreme wealth on fairness. But of course the existence of poverty - and arguably child poverty in particular - is just as much a barrier to the achievement of a fair society. As we argued in The Fair Necessities, everyone needs the fair essentials - having their basic needs met. This means that no one should live in poverty. As Iz’s story makes so painfully clear, poverty is a barrier to fair opportunities. We need to design out bad luck at birth as far as possible, so that every child is born with the same life chances. Every child should have the same opportunities to realise their full potential, regardless of the circumstances into which they are born.
High levels of child poverty shouldn’t be tolerated by decision makers, and we know that decisions made by MPs have the ability to change children’s lives. The End Child Poverty Coalition is calling on the UK government to scrap the two-child limit to benefit payments. It is right to help families who are struggling, and abolishing the two-child limit is the most cost-effective way of reducing child poverty. It would immediately lift 250,000 children out of poverty.
Please take action, emailing your MP today to let them know that you want change for the 4.2 million children who live in a low-income family in the UK.