Record number of 4.33 million children living in poverty branded ‘an outrage’

By Staff

There were an estimated 4.33 million children living in households on relatively low income in the year to March 2023, up from 4.22 million the previous year

The number of children living in poverty in the UK has hit a record high, new figures have revealed.

There were 4.33 million children in homes on relatively low income after housing costs in 2023, up from 4.22 million the year before and above the previous high of 4.28 million in 2020. A family dus considered to be in relative poverty if they earn less than 60% of what most people earn after paying for housing costs.

Meghan Meek-O’Connor from Save the Children UK said: “Today 4.3 million children are being failed. It is an outrage that 100,000 more children are in poverty they are being forgotten. These shocking figures should be an urgent wake-up call to all of us, especially the UK Government. We cannot go on like this. There is no reason children should be going without food, heating, toys, or beds.”

“Families need an adequate social security system that keeps children out of poverty, and provides them with a basic level of safety and security.”

Alison Garnham from Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) said: “In a general election year, nothing should be more important to our political leaders than making things better for the country’s poorest kids. But child poverty has reached a record high, with 4.3 million kids now facing cold homes and empty tummies.”

Barnardo’s boss Lynn Perry claimed that the numbers tell us “the Government has let down children”, comparing the rise of 100,000 from last year to the population of Eastbourne. She said: “Children can’t be happy and healthy if they are going to bed in a cold home, on an empty stomach.”

“Living in poverty means children miss out on opportunities and the activities that make childhood fun and support their development.” She urged the Government, along with other charities, to “urgently focus on reducing child poverty”. They all want to cancel the limit on benefit payments for only two children and ask for a guarantee to cover basic costs like food and household bills.

According to official Government figures, the number of people in relative low income went slightly down from 14.40 million to 14.35 million in the year ending March 2023.

Social change organisation the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said absolute poverty – another measure which looks at households with less than 60% of the median income in 2010/11, uprated by inflation – would usually be expected to fall year on year as a nation becomes more prosperous.

However, figures from Thursday showed an increase for the second year running, with 600,000 more people, half of them children, living in full-on poverty. An estimated 11.99 million people were living in absolute poverty in the UK up to March 2023, a rise from 11.39 million the year before.

Peter Matejic, JRF chief analyst, said: “The annual poverty figures published today confirm that the Government failed to protect the most vulnerable from the cost-of-living crisis. Absolute poverty, the Government’s preferred measure of poverty, has risen for the second year in a row. This is as big as we have seen for 40 years.”

He also noted that the slight decrease in overall relative poverty levels isn’t something to cheer about. This is mainly because middle-income households are earning less, not because those on the lowest incomes are better off. This trend is likely to reverse now that earnings are growing faster than inflation.

He pointed out that these statistics show “just how far away our social security system is from adequately supporting people who have fallen on hard times”. He urged all political parties to take this increase in poverty seriously and outline their plans to address it, especially with an election on the horizon.

Labour described the child poverty statistics as “horrifying” and promised to “fix this Tory failure yet again with a new cross-government child poverty strategy” if they win the general election.

Speaking on poverty, the Shadow employment and social security minister Alison McGovern said: “Labour will tackle the root causes of poverty by growing the economy, bringing down energy bills, creating better, more secure jobs, building more affordable housing, and protecting renters, delivering our Child Health Action Plan, placing Young Futures hubs in every community, cutting school uniform costs, and supporting parents and children by providing breakfast clubs in every primary school.”

Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, said that the Government had “stepped in with the biggest cost-of-living package in Europe, worth an average of £3,800 per household”, which he said has “prevented 1.3 million people from falling into poverty in 2022/23”.

He also highlighted the increase of benefits and pensions from April and the extension of the Household Support Fund.

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