RCPCH responds to JRF’s UK Poverty 2024 Report

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty in the UK shows 3 in every 10 children in the UK are living in poverty.

The report finds: 

  • The number and proportion of children in poverty rose between 2020/21 and 2021/22, as did overall poverty. There are now 4.2 million children living poverty. 
  • Three in every ten children are in poverty (29%) in 2021/22, an increase from 27% in 2020/21. Around nine in twenty children in lone parent families (44%) lived in poverty, compared with five in twenty of those in couple families (25%).
  • Children have consistently had the highest poverty rates throughout the past 25 years. Children have higher risks of poverty overall (29% versus 22% for the whole population)
  • Poverty rates were higher among many minority ethnic groups than they were for white people in the UK. In particular, between 2019/20 and 2021/22, around half of people in Pakistani (51%) and Bangladeshi (53%) households lived in poverty, with even higher poverty levels for children in those households (61% and 62%). In comparison, 25% of children in households headed by someone of white ethnicity were in poverty. 
  • Child poverty rates in Scotland (24%) remain much lower than those in England (31%) and Wales (28%) and are similar (if slightly higher) than in Northern Ireland (22%). 
  • Among people in poverty, food insecurity is most common among children and people in lone-parent families. In 2021/22, more than one in five children in poverty (22%) experienced insecurity, compared with 18% of working-age adults.

In response to the report, Dr Camilla Kingdon, said:

With 4.2 million children currently living in poverty, I often wonder how high these figures must go before meaningful action is taken. Consistently high child poverty is not just another shameful statistic for the UK but is indicative of wider policy failings that must be addressed. 

Poverty is cyclical in nature and can often be impossible to escape. It stunts growth, lowers immunity, slows development, puts pressure on mental wellbeing and often stop a child from reaching their full potential. As wealth inequality deepens, so too do health inequalities. Negative health outcomes among children living in more income deprived areas compared to their peers are growing at an extremely high rate. Paediatricians are now seeing worsening health outcomes in areas such as oral health, obesity, respiratory health, mental health, and general wellbeing. 

Yet there are solutions to this dire situation. We have an abundance of research, analysis, data, and policy proposals that can lead us forward in the fight against child poverty - but the political will for change is missing. 

We are calling on UK Government to reduce child poverty and subsequent child health inequalities by establishing a Cabinet Level Minister for Children and Young People and commit to developing a cross-departmental National Child Health and Wellbeing Strategy. The strategy, with Cabinet level oversight, should include an explicit focus on reducing child poverty and improving child health.