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Where is child poverty increasing in the UK?

Wednesday 19 May 2021
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New local child poverty data shows scale of problem across the UK

How is child poverty defined in the UK?

A child is considered to be growing up in poverty if they live in a household whose income is 60% below the average (median) income in a given year.

Even before the pandemic, 4.3 million children were living in poverty in the UK, up 200,000 from the previous year – and up 500,000 over the past five years. That is 31% of children.

The End Child Poverty Coalition (which we are a part of) has recently published local child poverty data.

This data takes households’ housing costs into account. Housing costs include rent, water rates, mortgage interest payments, buildings insurance payments, ground rent and services charges.

‘After housing costs’ data allows us to compare incomes for households in different parts of the country where housing costs vary.

The data, which covers the five years from 2014/15 to 2019/20, shows child poverty levels across the UK at local authority and constituency level. This means it tells us about the scale of the problem going into the pandemic – during 2019/20.

Where is child poverty rising fastest in the UK?

The North East of England has seen the most dramatic rise in child poverty in the past five years. The child poverty rate has risen by over a third - from 26% to 37%. Many low-paid workers in the region have been pushed below the poverty line by a freeze in their in-work social security benefits (financial support for people who work, but are on low incomes).

Newcastle upon Tyne has seen an increase in child poverty of more than 12% over the last five years. Rising from 28.4% of children living in poverty to 41.2%.

These figures have moved the North East England child poverty rate from just below the UK average five years ago, to the second highest of any region in 2019/20, after London (where 38% of children are in poverty).

The figures speak for themselves – the situation for children couldn’t be starker. We all want to live in a society where children are supported to be the best they can be, but the reality is very different for too many.

Anna Feuchtwang, Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition

Where is child poverty most common in the UK?

The data shows London and Birmingham, the two largest UK cities, as having the greatest concentrations of child poverty.

In those cities, there are several constituencies where most children were below the poverty line in 2019/20. Before the job losses and pay cuts associated with the pandemic worsened the situation.

The London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow had the highest concentration of child poverty in the UK in 2019/20, with 59.6% of children living below the poverty line after their families pay housing costs.

We’ve created an interactive map that shows the scale of the problem.

Child poverty rates across the UK

Percentage of children in poverty, 2019/20, by country:

  • UK – 31%
  • Wales – 31%
  • England – 30%
  • Scotland – 24%
  • Northern Ireland – 24%

Percentage of children in poverty, 2019/20, by English region:

  • London – 38%
  • North East – 37%
  • West Midlands – 35%
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – 33%
  • North West – 31%
  • East Midlands – 27%
  • South West – 26%
  • East of England – 26%
  • South East - 24%

How you can make a difference

These figures are a clear reminder that more needs to be done to support children and young people living in low-income families.

After 12 long months struggling to cope with job losses, pay cuts and rising costs, families with children have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.

Poverty destroys life chances. You cannot level up the country with millions of children in poverty so it’s vital the Government brings forward a credible plan to reduce poverty.

Imran Hussain, Director of Policy, Action for Children

We’re urging the Government to set out and deliver a comprehensive and ambitious plan to end child poverty. This must include:

  • Supporting children by boosting child-focussed support, such as Child Benefit.
  • Revoking the planned £20/week cut to Universal Credit to help struggling families.
  • Extending the £20/week uplift in Universal Credit to those in receipt of legacy benefits.

They will only do this if they are under pressure from Members of Parliament, that’s where you come in. 

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