New figures released today (July 12) show Thanet has the fourth highest rates of child poverty in the southeast with an overall rate of 33.1% – equating to 9010 children – 0-15 year olds deemed to be living below the breadline.
Research carried out by Loughborough University for the End Child Poverty Coalition shows that despite a slight overall decline nationally North and South Thanet, along with Meon Valley and East Hampshire, all saw rises of between 3% and 4% compared to the 2019/20 figures.
Child poverty levels in North Thanet are 33% and South Thanet 34.2% in 2020/21, compared to 29.3% and 30.6% in 2019/20. The figures are for children living in households with below 60% median income after housing costs.
|Local authority||% of children below 60% median income AHC|
|Isle of Wight||31.5%|
|Folkestone and Hythe||30.0%|
The data released by the Coalition covers a period from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 at which point families were in receipt of the £20 Universal Credit uplift, which experts say is the main reason why the numbers nationally slightly declined in this period.
The coalition says there is now significant fear that with the £20 removed, next year’s results for the year 2021/22 will see a further rise in child poverty levels, adding: “ Even with the government’s cost of living support package, some of the measures proposed were temporary and will only remedy the recent price hike in energy bills and rising prices. They do not respond to the real terms cuts families have experienced for years.”
‘Children going without’
The End Child Poverty Coalition believes the figures show child poverty rates remain alarmingly high in the UK and despite promises to ‘level up’ the country, there has been little progress on reducing suffering for children on the scale the country needs.
A spokesperson said: “Far too many children are still going without, struggling to concentrate at school if they’re hungry, missing out on nursery, school trips, and other opportunities that squeezed families can no longer afford. By age three, the average child from a low-income family is up to 17 months behind those from wealthier families.
“Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s financial package was welcome and showed ministers understood the impact of rising costs on families, but some of the measures are temporary and only remedy the recent price hike in energy bills and rising prices and do not respond to the real terms cuts families have experienced for years. A promised inflationary increase next year will be welcome, but the impact of rising inflation means there isn’t any significant additional income going to families.”
Easing the pressure
The End Child Poverty Coalition is calling on the UK government to continue to find ways of making social security more adequate in the long term so that every family can afford the essentials.
The Coalition says benefits should keep pace with inflation permanently, not just through one-off measures due to be implemented this autumn; for those on universal credit, deductions should be reduced, and the benefit cap abolished.; there needs to be improved access to free or affordable childcare and Free School Meals should be extended to all children in families receiving Universal Credit.
Charity Buttle UK says it has seen a 48% uplift in grant applications from families living in the South East over the last year.
‘Edge of a precipice’
Joseph Howes, Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition & CEO of charity Buttle UK, said: “The additional £20 support from the Government during the COVID crisis does appear to have affected the figures positively in most areas. This shows that change is possible, these levels of child poverty do not have to be the norm. There will always be conflicting government priorities, but surely the wellbeing of the most vulnerable children in our society should be front and centre, particularly as we go through the most severe period of price rises for 40 years.
“The numbers may have gone down overall during the initial period of the COVID crisis, but it still feels like we are on the edge of a precipice. There is significant concern that they will now rise again sharply with families facing huge cost increases in the coming months. It remains incredibly worrying that at a moment like this there is nothing in the Government’s Levelling Up strategy on this issue. I just don’t understand this, we must see a national child poverty strategy created, it is heartbreaking that there isn’t one when we can see evidence that shows change really is possible.”
‘Parents can’t keep pace’
County Councillor Karen Constantine, who represents Ramsgate at the authority, says the cost of living crisis will mean poverty levels increasing.
She said: “Both nationally and locally we need our Government to take urgent action to stop the rise of child poverty and to reverse it. Child poverty isn’t inevitable it’s a political decision.
“Child poverty will continue to go as the cost of living crisis continues. We are seeing rising inflation, rising taxes, sky high food and fuel costs, and wages are not keeping pace with living costs at all. Thanet has low wages compared to other parts of Kent and benefits levels are at the lowest rates for 50 years.
“Parents can’t keep pace, even when they go without, as many do. We have created a perfect storm for the future.
“Coastal communities like ours are particularly vulnerable to poverty. We know that 1 in 5 residents have been struggling with fuel and food costs even before this current crisis. This is only going to get worse without government intervention.
“The impact of child poverty on children is severe and significant. Poor children become poor adults. Achieving less well at school, not securing better employment, as well as being less healthy and having poorer life expectancy.
“Child poverty isn’t inevitable, it’s a political choice. What we need now is urgent government action to stop and reverse child poverty.”
Calculations from Households Below Average Income statistics on the number and percentage of people living in low-income households for financial year 2019/20, via Department for Work and Pensions.
The media UK income after housing costs in 2020 was £28,600 per year. Below 60% median income would equal circa £17,000 or less.