A fifth of British seven-year-olds live in "severe poverty" with both parents together earning less than half the average national income, a major report reveals. The government-sponsored Millennium Cohort Study has tracked 14,000 children born at the start of the century to build a picture of how family circumstances determine a young person's education, health and happiness in Britain. The latest findings are from two years ago, when the children were seven years old.
The London University's Institute of Education researchers found that despite governments having spent billions to eliminate child poverty since 1999:
• Almost one-fifth of seven-year-olds live in severe poverty – homes where the total income, including benefits, is less than £254 a week. The UK average income for a family with one child is a £563 a week, say researchers.
• Almost three-quarters of children whose parents are of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin live in poverty – homes where the total income for a family with one child is under £330 a week. This is largely because of high unemployment rates for mothers and fathers, the researchers say.
• Just over half (51%) of black seven-year-olds and just over a quarter of white seven-year-olds live in poverty, with three-fifths from these groups in single-parent families.
• Seven-year-olds are most likely to live in poverty in the north-east (40%) and least likely in the south-west (22%). The figure for London was 36%.
• Just under 7% of seven-year-olds living in poverty do not have two pairs of all-weather shoes, according to parents. Just under 50% do not get pocket money.
Also The number of families and pensioners struggling to stay warm and keep the lights on has more than doubled in five years, according to official figures published today. The amount of households in fuel poverty leapt from two million to 4.5 million between 2003 and 2008.
Dave Timms, Friends of the Earth's climate campaigner, said: "It's a national disgrace that over four million people are still living in fuel poverty in the 21st century, as a result huge numbers of vulnerable families, pensioners and children are suffering from ill health and high energy bills."