Child poverty: Heartbreaking data shows the scale of crisis in your area

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Years of Tory neglect have seen millions of children forced to grow up in poverty, with the situation getting worse as a result of soaring housing costs and cruel cuts.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic piled more misery onto struggling families, a lack of support plunged more youngsters below the breadline, heartbreaking data shows.

In some parts of London and Birmingham, more than half of children are living in poverty after housing costs are taken into account.

And parts of the Midlands and northern England are fast catching up as the cost of renting increases, with sharp rises between 2014 and last year.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, government figures showed 4.2 million children were living in poverty – with that number expected to rise by a million in just two years.

Research by Loughborough University, published by the End Child Poverty coalition, reveals sharp rises in cities including Middlebrough, Newcastle and Bradford.

Areas where child poverty has risen sharpest in four years:

Areas of the North and Midlands have seen sharp rises in child poverty

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Mirror Online is publishing the data with Chancellor Rishi Sunak set to unveil his spending review today.

Housing costs are taking a devastating toll on cash-strapped families in the capital.

Figures reveal that 60% of children are living in poverty in Bethnal Green and Bow, one of six constituencies in London where the figure is above 50%.

Since 2014, soaring costs of living have outstripped wages, leaving families increasingly reliant on foodbanks and free school meals.

In recent weeks the government has come under fire after rejecting hero footballer Marcus Rashford's call for free school meals to be extended over school holidays before eventually U-turning on the decision.

The package includes a £170m Covid winter grant scheme to support vulnerable families in England and an extension of the holiday activities and food programme to the Easter, summer and Christmas breaks next year.

But experts warn that after the problem was allowed to snowball for years, it will get worse before it gets better.

Anna Feuchtwang, chair of End Child Poverty, said: “The Government can be in no doubt about the challenge it faces if it is serious about ‘levelling up’ disadvantaged parts of the country. 

Experts warn that lack of support has plunged families into poverty (stock image)
(Image: Getty Images)

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“This new data reveals the true extent of the hardship experienced by families on low incomes – the overwhelming majority of which were working households before the pandemic.

“The children affected are on a cliff edge, and the pandemic will only sweep them further into danger."

Middlesbrough and Tyneside have both seen sharp rises in the number of children living in poverty.

In the past, campaigners say, cheaper housing costs offset low incomes in these areas – but now rent is rising at the same rate as the rest of the country.

The devastating impact of high housing costs

Constituencies with the largest difference between child poverty rates before and after housing costs

Bethnal Green and Bow – 60.6% after housing costs (AHC), 30.1% before housing costs (BHC) – 30.5% difference

Hackney South and Shoreditch – 52.0% AHC, 23.9% BHC, 28.1% difference

Bermondsey and Old Southwark – 50.3% AHC, 22.3% BHC, 28% difference

Holborn and St Pancras – 47.9% AHC, 19.9% BHC, 28% difference

Vauxhall – 49.7% AHC, 19.9% BHC, 27.5% difference

Poplar and Limehouse – 52.4% AHC, 25.1% BHC, 27.3% difference

Islington South and Finsbury – 46.2% AHC, 19.4% BHC, 26.8% difference

West Ham – 52.5% AHC, 25.9% BHC, 26.6% difference

Walthamstow – 50.8% AHC, 24.5% BHC, 26.3% difference

Tottenham – 50.3% AHC, 24.0% BHC, 26.2% difference

East Ham – 51.3% AHC, 25.5% BHC, 25.8% difference

Camberwell and Peckham – 46.1% AHC, 21.1% BHC, 25.0% difference

Hackney North and Stoke Newington – 44.6% AHC, 19.6% BHC, 25% difference

Greenwich and Woolwich – 45.9% AHC, 21.0% BHC, 24.9% difference

Mitcham and Morden – 48.5% AHC, 23.8% BHC, 24.7% difference

Leyton and Wanstead – 46.0% AHC, 21.3% BHC, 24.7% difference

Lewisham West and Penge – 45.9% AHC, 21.5% BHC, 24.4% difference

Middlesbrough's Labour MP Andy McDonald has blasted the government
(Image: Evening Gazette)

New figures show a sharp rise in the number of children living in poverty

Middlesborough MP Andy McDonald, Labour, previously told Mirror Online : "Too many families in Middlesbrough are poor because of the impact of failed economic and social policies of Tory governments since 2010."

And he continued: “Austerity has hit places like Middlesbrough hardest. Even the Tories have woken up to the lack of fairness revealed by glaring regional inequalities but its they who have made it increasingly worse ever since they came back into power."

And Labour MP Chi Onwurah, who represents Newcastle Central, said: "What's horrifying is that we're the sixth richest nation in the world, and yet this is happening.

"A significant proportion of children in poverty have at least one parent in work, so what the last 10 years of austerity have done is shown that work doesn't pay anymore."

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah voiced her horror that the crisis is unfolding in one of the world's richest countries
(Image: newcastle chronicle)

Campaigners have called on the government to launch an "ambitious plan" to tackle the child poverty emergency before it is too late for a lost generation.

Professor Donald Hirsch, from Loughborough University's Centre for Research in Social Policy, said: "This evidence shows that even before Covid, child poverty was rising alarmingly in many areas of the country.

"For example, in Leicester, it rose from just under three children in ten to nearly four children in ten, between 2015 and 2019.

“The Covid crisis has helped to highlight what it means to grow up in a low income family, with many families now finding hard to meet basic needs and the use of foodbanks rising."

The Daily Mirror is calling on the government to end the scourge of child poverty
(Image: Getty Images)

Although the government has temporarily increased Universal Credit support during the pandemic, Prof Hirsch said: “This follows a period in which the value of such help declined, with no increases to cover rising costs between 2016 and 2019."

End Child Poverty is calling for an urgent Government plan to end child poverty including:

  • Uprating of housing assistance in line with inflation
  • Retain the £20 uplift in Universal Credit introduced at the start of the pandemic, which the Government has indicated will end in April 2021
  • End the benefit cap and the two-child limit on benefits
  • Invest in all children with an increase to child benefit
  • Extend Free School Meals to all families in receipt of Universal Credit and those with No Recourse to Public Funds

In just 12 months the number rose by a huge 100,000 to 4.2 million, figures from the Department for Work and Pensions showed in March – 600,000 more than when the Tories came to power a decade ago.

Overall there are 500,000 more people living in poverty than there were a year ago.

Since 2015 the number of children living in poverty in Britain has risen by 400,000 before housing costs are taken into account – meaning one in six children, or 18%, live in affected homes.

Coronavirus crisis turns Give Me Five into Give Me 10 – or even 20

Prior to the coronavirus crisis, the Daily Mirror was calling on Boris Johnson to hike child benefit by £5 a week to end the scourge of child poverty.

Without action the number of kids in poverty in the UK was set to rise from 4.1million to 5.2million in the next two years.

Our Give Me Five campaign wanted an immediate increase in child benefit – a move that would lift 200,000 children out of destitution. Our campaign was backed by charities, politicians and union leaders.

However, as the global pandemic sparks a fresh recession – which the International Monetary Fund warns could be the worst since the Great Depression in the 1930 – charities say more needs to be done.

Action for Children is now calling on the Government to increase child benefit further, by £10, to recognise the ever-worsening situation plunging children in poverty.

Meanwhile the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is calling for "a just emergency intervention, targeted to mitigate the immediate strain on low-income families."

The charity says an increase of at least £20 per child per week to the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credits "would go a long way to covering the increased costs posed by the current and potential subsequent lockdowns."

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions reveal that 2.7 million children were living in poverty in Great Britain in March last year.

And the picture is even more bleak after housing costs are taken into account, with the figure rising to 4.2 million in the UK under the Tories – 600,000 more than a decade ago.

The Daily Mirror is running a Give Me Five campaign – calling on Boris Johnson to urgently address the unfolding tragedy across Britain.

We initially called for child benefit to be hiked by £5 a week – but our charity partners now say the effect of the pandemic is so bad that the government needs to bring in a £10 increase instead.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said the pandemic has made an already-critical situation even worse.

He said workers have been feeding desperate families from their own cupboards as the economic effect of Covid-19 causes further heartbreak.

He said: “These grim figures show millions of families with children are already struggling to keep their heads above water even before they – and millions of others living comfortably – find themselves hit hard by the economic wave of this once-in-a-generation health crisis.

“In the past week some families have already got so desperate, our frontline staff are feeding them from their own cupboards."

Campaigners warn that the situation will get worse as a result of the pandemic

Labour MP Lucy Powell, who represents Manchester Central, previously accused the Tories of failing a generation.

She told Mirror Online: “Rising child poverty is a direct result of choices by successive Conservative Ministers to reduce financial support for families in and out of work.

"Falling child poverty was one of the legacies of the last Labour government, yet a decade of Tory rule has shamefully reversed that trend."

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