‘At least one in four children in poverty in two-thirds of constituencies’

Parties have been urged to commit to “systemic changes” to help families after new analysis suggested at least one in four children are living in poverty in two-thirds of parliamentary constituencies.

These high rates of child poverty are particularly prevalent in the North East, North West and Wales, the research by Loughborough University for the End Child Poverty Coalition suggested.

Constituency-level child poverty rates are “directly and strongly correlated with the percentage of children affected by the two-child limit in that local area” a report by the university’s Centre for Research in Social Policy said.

It argued that this provides “further evidence that the policy is a key driver of child poverty”.

The two-child limit, introduced under the Conservative Government in 2017 and restricting Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to the first two children in most households, is a policy charities and campaigners have repeatedly said should be scrapped.

Last month, Sir Keir said he would scrap the cap “in an ideal world” but added that “we haven’t got the resources to do it at the moment”.

Official statistics released earlier this year showed the estimated total number of people in relative low income was at 14.35 million in the year to March 2023, with some 4.33 million of those being children.

The latest figure for children was the highest since comparable records for the UK began in 2002/03 and prompted campaigners at the time to say young people are being failed and forgotten.

A household is considered to be in relative poverty if it is below 60% of the median income after housing costs.

The research findings are for the new constituency boundaries for this General Election, with researchers saying their work provides “a valuable source of information for the incoming government in developing targeted strategies to reduce child poverty across the UK”.

The report said 66% of constituencies have at least 25% of children in poverty.

Levels were highest in the North West, which had 90% of constituencies with at least one in four children in poverty, followed by the North East (89%), West Midlands (89%) and Wales (88%).

Levels were lowest in Northern Ireland (22%), East of England (31%) and the South East (44%), according to the research, while Scotland had just over half of constituencies (54%) with a child poverty rate of at least one in four.

The latest research comes just days after the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said its recent further analysis of raw data on poverty suggested there are 1.7 million people across the UK who are just £20 a week away from the poverty line, some 400,000 of whom are children and half a million of whom are pensioners.

An estimated 900,000 people are just £10 a week from the poverty line, including around 200,000 children and 300,000 pensioners, the analysis suggested.

The End Child Poverty Coalition, which includes the Child Poverty Action Group and Save the Children UK, is warning political parties they must prioritise child poverty in their campaigns with “bold and decisive action”, including a commitment to the removal of the two-child limit to benefit payments and the benefit cap.

Joseph Howes, chairman of the End Child Poverty Coalition and chief executive of the charity Buttle UK, said: “The data is undeniable – too many children are in a cycle of deprivation that affects their health, education, and future prospects.

‘It is time to dismantle these barriers and the elections will provide a critical platform for committing to systemic changes to uplift families and give every child the opportunity to thrive.”

Mark Russell, chief executive of The Children’s Society said the scale of child poverty is “deeply damaging the lives and futures of a generation of children”.

He added: “We need decisive action from political leaders to address rising child poverty.

“The first steps the next government should take is scrapping the two child limit and the benefits cap – these together have had a catastrophic effect, pushing many more families into deep poverty.”

Sara Ogilvie, director of policy, rights and advocacy at Child Poverty Action Group said: “Children won’t get a say in this election, yet child poverty is at a record high with kids in every corner of the country cut off from opportunities to thrive.

“Their well-being is the responsibility of every politician and should be a policy priority over the next few weeks and beyond.”