Where is child poverty increasing in the UK?

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Kelly Corcoran - Digital Communications Officer
Friday 22 March 2024
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Local child poverty data shows scale of problem across the UK

During the pandemic, 400,000 children were pulled out of poverty, largely thanks to the Government's decision to temporarily increase Universal Credit by £20 a week.

But with the withdrawal of the £20 increase in October 2021, followed by the onset of a major cost of living crisis, this progress was pushed firmly into reverse.

These trends provide a crucial lesson for decision makers: greater investment in our social security system is the best tool we have for tackling child poverty. But this progress is easily undone without a proper, long-term commitment to protecting the childhoods and life chances of children growing up on a low-income.

In 2022/23, the number of children living in poverty increased by 100,000 from 4.2 million in 2021/22 to 4.3 million children. That's 30% of children in the UK.

A child is considered to be growing up in poverty if they live in a household whose income is below 60% of the average (median) income for that year. This is called 'relative poverty'. Data on relative child poverty is available both before and after housing costs are taken into account.

The End Child Poverty Coalition (which Action for Children is a part of) published new detailed local child poverty data up to 2021/22.

This data takes 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, covering 2014/15 to 2021/22, shows child poverty levels across the UK at local authority and constituency level.

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Where has child poverty risen fastest since 2015?

While the child poverty rate at the UK-level has barely changed between 2014/15 and 2021/22, some areas have seen particularly large increases. The rate of child poverty in the North East of England increased by 9 percentage points in the seven years between 2015 and 2022. Substantial increases can also be seen in the Midlands and the North West.

Where is child poverty most common in the UK?

While the West Midlands and North East now have the highest rate of child poverty across the regions, many of the worst affected local authorities continue to be in London. This is driven by the very high cost of housing in the capital.

Tower Hamlets had the highest concentration of child poverty in the UK in 2021/22, with almost half of children living below the poverty line after accounting for housing costs. Child poverty rates are also high in other large cities like Birmingham and Manchester.

This interactive map shows the number and percentage of children in poverty by constituency. You can search for your constituency using the search bar at the top or find it and click directly on the map.

It’s shaded to highlight the differences between areas of the country – the darker the map, the higher the child poverty rate. It also highlights the percentage of children in poverty who are in working families (note: these figures are only available before housing costs are accounted for, unlike the overall child poverty rate which does take housing costs into account).

This chart allows you to select and compare how the child poverty rate among different constituencies has changed over time. You can also select up to four others to compare it to.

Child poverty rates across the UK

Percentage of children in poverty, 2021/22, by country:

  • UK – 29%
  • Wales – 28%
  • England – 31%
  • Scotland – 24%
  • Northern Ireland – 22%

Percentage of children in poverty, 2021/22, by English region:

  • London – 33%
  • North East – 35%
  • West Midlands – 38%
  • Yorkshire and the Humber – 31%
  • North West – 34%
  • East Midlands – 33%
  • South West – 27%
  • East of England – 24%
  • South East– 25%

The following interactive chart shows how child poverty is dispersed within the English regions. Each dot on the chart represents a constituency.

The wide spread of dots in London, for example, shows that your likelihood of being in poverty depends very much on where you live in the city. The dots in the North East are more concentrated, showing that almost everywhere in that region has similarly high child poverty rates.

It also allows you to quickly identify those areas that have particularly high or low child poverty rates – such as the three Birmingham constituencies or Bethnal Green and Bow in London on the far right of the plot.

How you can make a difference

At Action for Children, we have thousands of frontline workers supporting children every day. We've seen children without a bed sleeping on the floor with just blankets. Families phoning us because they have no money to feed their children. A level of poverty that should be confined to history.

We know missing out on essentials like these can quickly define a child’s whole life. With your help, we can be a vital lifeline for desperate families with nowhere to turn.


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