Britain has 4.2 million children growing up in poverty and the government is allowing shock number to grow

Poverty has been allowed to thrive in the UK is now at an incomprehensible level, causing great harm to millions of children and families
4.2 million children living and growing up in poverty in Britain and it doesn't have to be this way4.2 million children living and growing up in poverty in Britain and it doesn't have to be this way
4.2 million children living and growing up in poverty in Britain and it doesn't have to be this way

We have yet another evidenced based report adding to numerous others over two decades, identifying the shocking levels of poverty that UK children and their families are living in. What makes the recent research findings all the more shocking is that all the warnings were ignored by politicians who have deliberately allowed the problem to get worse.

I know only too well from my work with children and families, the realities of poverty and its adverse impact upon their lives and life chances. The repeated representation by charities and organisations supporting children and families calling upon the Conservative government to end child poverty and poverty generally have repeatedly been ignored, as evident in the rise of poverty into this present day.

The Child Poverty Action Group, predicted in 2019 that if the Government proceeded on its spending plan path, then a staggering 34 per cent of children would be living below the breadline by the end of the next parliament. This, they said, amounts to a rise of 600,000 children and the highest proportion since records began in the early 1960s. We have now 4.2 million children living and growing up in poverty. 

In my own home town of Sheffield we now have one third - and rising - of our children living in conditions of stark poverty. New figures were released in January as part of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's (JRF) flagship UK Poverty report. It identified that the poverty gap has massively risen for the poorest people on our society and that now, in order to move out of this extended poverty, wages would need to double. Save the Children, contending with this accruing child poverty crisis here in the UK, went on the public record in October 2023 calling upon Labour as an elected Government to bring in a new Act of Parliament - a Child Poverty Act - to be delivered within their first 100 days if they win at the next general election and to pledge they would commit themselves to reducing inequality with a set of legally binding targets. This could drive down the shameful statistic that 4.2 million children in the UK are growing up in poverty.

The previous Child Poverty Act was introduced by the last Labour government not too long  before the 2010 general election but it was axed by the Conservatives. Save the Children have asserted that a new Act could help today's children who have been severely impacted by the crises of austerity, Covid and the cost-of-living crisis.

Speaking at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation report launch, Paul Kissack, Group Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “It has been almost twenty years and six Prime Ministers since the last prolonged period of falling poverty in the UK. Instead, over the last two decades, we have seen poverty deepen, with more and more families falling further and further below the poverty line. Little wonder that the visceral signs of hardship and destitution are all around us – from rocketing use of foodbanks to growing numbers of homeless families. This is social failure at scale. It is a story of both moral and fiscal irresponsibility – an affront to the dignity of those living in hardship, while driving up pressures on public services like the NHS.   

“It’s a story which can - and must - change.  Governments are not powerless to act, as we have seen throughout our history. One way politicians can take action in the next parliament is to enshrine in law a guarantee that people will always be able to afford the essentials, such as food and household bills, through our benefits system.“ 

They have made it clear that if Labour are elected then they should adopt The Social Metrics Commission’s measure of poverty and use this more accurate calculation as the one by which they set their targets. This would  take into consideration of housing, liquid assets, the extra costs of childcare, disability, as well as rental and mortgage costs. They also have said that Labour, if elected, should also continue to record absolute poverty before and after housing costs and relative poverty before and after housing costs. All of this combined would go some way of unveiling the true realities of living conditions and needs of children here. 

Every political leader and their parties should be alarmed at the increase in child poverty. The pipe dream of ‘social mobility’ was bizarrely enforced by moving away from properly supporting people, including children and their families, through cutting benefits. Spending in order to attain ‘social mobility’ is a rich people’s folly experiment that’s ended up being proven wrong and which was branded as seriously flawed from its inception . The warnings to Government were ignored.

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