The number of children living in poverty in the UK has risen since 2011, threatening to precipitate a wide range of health problems across the life course. The link between poverty and health is firmly established.
The medical journal, the Lancet states that child poverty in the UK increased in absolute terms in 2011, and the latest figures confirm predictions of a steep rise up to 2020. There are now 3·9 million children living in poverty in the UK, 66% of whom live in working families.
Analysis shows that those who have never lived in poverty have a one in ten chance of a mental health issue by age 11 years, but if they have experienced persistent poverty then this rises to a 30% chance.
Strong links also exist between child poverty and mortality in infants and children. In fact, the UK child mortality rate is one of the highest in western Europe. Ingrid Wolfe from Evelina London Children's Healthcare, and King's College London, says “If the UK had Sweden's child survival rate, there would be about five fewer children's deaths each day, that is 1900 per year”.
The Welfare Reform and Work Act passed earlier this year will, experts say, strip low-income families of core income. Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, says: “It contains a package of cuts that will set child poverty soaring by limiting child tax credit and the universal credit equivalent to only two children and freezing benefits for 4 years”.