Child poverty in the United Kingdom has been a growing concern in recent years. The figures show that there was an increase in child poverty by nearly one-fifth between 2014/15 and 2018/19, with a rate of 18.4% before considering the impact of rising housing costs on families. This situation varies across the country, and Loughborough University research has highlighted how the North East has the highest increase of 6.5%. However, the East Midlands region remains unchanged at 16.6% and the West Midlands has seen a significant rise to 23.8%, widening the gap between the two regions.
The research conducted by Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) and published by End Child Poverty charity shows the areas of the UK most at risk of deprivation. According to the report, northern local authorities such as Oldham, Middlesbrough, and Blackburn have the highest rates of child poverty, with nearly four in ten children in poverty. The ongoing COVID-19 lockdown has exacerbated the situation, putting more pressure on struggling families, and the report’s authors warn that this could result in even more people falling below the poverty threshold.
Permanent Boosts to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit:
The authors suggest that making the temporary boosts to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent could help families struggling with child poverty. The report notes that these boosts have the potential to put more money into the hands of some of these families. They are helping many families stay in jobs through the furlough scheme and are also improving safety net incomes for some families who are out of work or in low-paid jobs, by giving them around £1,000 more per year for 12 months if they are on Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit. However, millions of people still rely on the older benefits and tax credit system, including Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, and Income Support, and are not eligible for the additional subsidy if they are not working.
According to Professor Donald Hirsch, director of CRSP, the evidence shows that before the crisis, an out-of-work family received just over half what they needed for a decent living standard if they relied on these benefits. Although the improvements brought in by the Chancellor have reduced the shortfall, they have not closed the gap entirely. Moreover, it is puzzling that an out-of-work family still on the old tax credits system receives nothing, whereas one in the same situation but on Universal Credit gets £1,000 more this year.
In conclusion, child poverty in the UK has increased over the past few years, and the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown has exacerbated the situation. The research conducted by Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy highlights the regions, local authorities, and parliamentary constituencies most at risk of deprivation. The report emphasizes that making the temporary boosts to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent could help families struggling with child poverty. These improvements, announced as temporary, should become permanent if we want children to live at a minimum acceptable level in the longer term.