Child poverty has shot up in towns and cities across the north and Midlands of England fuelled by stagnating family incomes and the spiralling cost of housing. The figures predated Covid, they showed alarming rates of child poverty even before the pandemic led to large numbers of people losing their jobs.
Although deprived inner-London boroughs such as Newham and Tower Hamlets continue to have the highest levels of child poverty in the UK, the most striking increases have been in Middlesbrough, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and parts of Birmingham.
The north-east saw the most dramatic rise in child poverty, up nine percentage points between 2014-15 and 2018-19, taking it from the English region with the joint second-lowest rate to the second highest, behind London.
Eight of the 10 UK local authorities suffering the sharpest child poverty increases over the period, which covered the peak years of austerity, were in in the north-east, headed by Middlesbrough, where 41.1% of children were in poverty in 2018-19, up from 28.6% five years earlier.
“This data reveals the true extent of the hardship experienced by families on low incomes – the majority of which were working households before the pandemic. The children affected are on a cliff edge, and the pandemic will only sweep them further into danger,” said Anna Feuchtwang, chair of End Child Poverty. Feuchtwang continued, “During the pandemic we’ve seen unexpected increases in house prices, coupled with rising unemployment and a surge in people forced to make benefit claims, and we worry that a steep rise in child poverty is on the way.”
In 2018-19, 30% of UK children were in poverty, defined as children in households with incomes after subtracting housing costs of less than 60% of the median. In England, 31% of children were below the breadline, compared with 28% in Wales, 25% in Northern Ireland and 24% in Scotland.
Tower Hamlets had the highest percentage of children in poverty in the UK, at 55.4% after housing costs, according to the analysis, followed by Newham at 50.3% and Barking and Dagenham at 49.9%. Birmingham (41.6%) had the highest child poverty rates outside London.