RCPCH responds to JRF’s UK Poverty 2023 report

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty in the UK shows that a million children under 4 are growing up in poverty.

The findings come from the annual poverty report published today (26 January) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) which uses the latest available government data which covered the first year of the pandemic.

The report found: 

  • 3.9 million children were in poverty during 2020/21. 
  • 1.3 million primary school children and 1 million children who are under 4 were growing up in poverty even with additional support 
  • One in six (18%) children were living in persistent poverty (spending at least 3 out of the last 4 years in poverty). For young children that is nearly their whole life.
  • Almost 40% of children in a lone parent family are in poverty.
  • The pandemic highlighted huge health inequalities, with a strong overlap with poverty rates. 
  • The temporary £20 uplift in Universal Credit took 400,000 families out of poverty.

In response to the findings, RCPCH President Dr Camilla Kingdon said: 

It’s distressing to find that a million children under the age of 4 are now growing up in poverty. Paediatricians have long known that poverty is on the rise, the conditions our patients’ present with have all but confirmed it. Negative health outcomes among children living in more income deprived areas compared to their peers are growing at an extremely high rate. We see the impacts of poverty in the asthma that won’t go away from poor quality damp housing, food insecurity, poor dental health, or low birth weight. However, this cannot be blamed entirely on the current cost of living crisis. Poverty has been rising consistently over the last decade. 

We must remember that poverty is a political choice. Afterall, child poverty falling in the UK for the first time in a number of years is credited as a temporary improvement from the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. This clearly shows that boosting the incomes of low-income families via cash transfers works to alleviate poverty. The way forward now should be clear, our governments must act now to lift children, young people, and their families out of poverty. 

We thank the JRF for this exemplary report, which not only lays out the troubling data on poverty in great detail, but also explains the cyclical and insidious nature of poverty itself. Most notably the report focusses on the real life lived experiences of those living in poverty, which can be so often overlooked in the raw data alone.