In parts of the country, a child is now more likely to grow up in poverty than not. If the government doesn't act now, their failure will haunt them for decadesby Dawn Foster / January 25, 2018 / Leave a comment
A child born today in one of four constituencies—in London, Bethnal Green and Bow, and Poplar and Limehouse, and in Birmingham’s Ladywood and Hodge Hill—is, after housing costs, more likely to grow up in poverty than not. New research by the End Child Poverty coalition lists the areas with both the highest child poverty and the greatest increase, with the two mostly eliding.
Child poverty in particular has worsened at a far quicker rate than amongst adults and pensioners: in Bethnal Green, child poverty has increased 11 percentage points in two years. This is just the beginning. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, a think tank not known for leaning left, has warned absolute child poverty will increase by 4 per cent by 2021-22, with 400,000 children plunged into poverty as a directly attributable result of the rollout of Universal Credit.
The government’s obsession with reducing the benefit bill at any cost, without considering the two main components of the expenditure—an ageing population and a hefty housing benefit bill creamed off by private landlords—has seen the poorest become even poorer, with benefits being drastically cut in real terms. Food banks use has exploded. In almost every school I’ve visited in the past five years, teachers report hungry and distracted children. The number of children in temporary accommodation, classed as homeless, has not stopped climbing.
In essence, the poorest are growing even poorer, and their life chances being winnowed away by hunger and poor accommodation.
Several factors contribute to this: the freeze on benefits hasn’t been accompanied by a freeze in energy and fuel costs; many families are earning less as they shift to Universal Credit, especially those with children; and the ‘poverty premium’—the ironic fact that life costs more when you’re poor—increases the outlay families with less have to spend on basics.
Energy and electricity costs far more using meters, which many families in rented homes or on benefits are forced to use. Many big cities are also experiencing food deserts, previously an American phenomenon, where larger supermarkets are often too far to make shopping at them feasible, leaving families reliant on smaller shops with a limited, more expensive range.
The government’s answer is to quibble over the definitions of poverty, arguing that 60…