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21st February, 2013

One in five British children are living below the poverty line, with almost half under the threshold in some areas, according to new research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the End Child Poverty coalition.

Manchester Central is designated the poorest area, with 47 per cent of children living in poverty, followed by Belfast West and Glasgow North East on 43 per cent.

Sheffield Hallam has the lowest rate, according to figures in the new report, which charts child poverty according to parliamentary constituencies, with five per cent in the category.

Areas of Liverpool and Middlesbrough also had four in 10 children living in poverty in 2012.

Children are classified as being in poverty if they live in families on out-of-work benefits or in-work tax credits where their reported income is less than 60 per cent of median income.

The new figures show eight areas of large cities have more than 40 per cent of children in this category, down from 19 in 2011. They also reveal the wide disparity across Britain and within regions.

Commenting on the CPAG research, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: "Many of the hardest hit areas identified in this report are facing huge reductions in local authority funding as result of government spending cuts. This will put vital support services for vulnerable children under tremendous strain."

She continued: "Unless the government pulls back from these austerity measures, child poverty will become even more entrenched in already deprived parts of the country."

"Countless studies have shown that children who grow-up in poverty are far less likely to do well at school or find long-term employment. The UK simply cannot afford for any more of its youngsters to be consigned to the scrapheap of inactivity," said Ms O’Grady.

Writing in The Huffington Post, CPAG chief executive Alison Garnham commented: "There has been a great deal of misleading commentary about the Child Poverty Act framework in the last few months. First of all, many make the mistake of thinking there is only one target and the targets are only about income, but as anyone can read in sections one to seven of the Act, this is completely untrue.

"Many also seem unaware of the legal requirements on government to consider action across the broad range of policy areas related to children’s wellbeing and outcomes, so we also point people towards the all-important section nine of the Act.

"Just last week, the think-tank Policy Exchange called for the Act to be scrapped, which would mean losing legal requirements on government to take action in areas like education, housing, debt, childcare, health, employment and parenting skills. They also called for the measures to be scrapped, and a new one put in place, which they themselves describe as ‘arbitrary’ and under which you could have the bizarre situation of a family living in relative poverty, stuck in damp substandard housing and caught deep in debt who are no longer officially classified as poor because they fail the convoluted tick-box exercise at the heart of the measure.

"We are better off sticking with the current targets which are widely respected by academic experts than their arbitrary proposal which incidentally also makes the mistake of including characteristics which could also be shared by people who are not poor at all – such as drug and alcohol abuse," she concluded.



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