RCPCH responds to latest statistics on child poverty

On 12 July 2022, the End Child Poverty Coalition, a coalition of charities of which RCPCH is a member, published statistics outlining rates of child poverty across the UK.
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Wales and the North East of England have seen the largest increases in child poverty, with the North East now overtaking London in having the highest child poverty rate in the UK.

The headlines state: 

  • Child poverty was down overall in the UK in 2020/21 but is likely to be a temporary improvement related to the additional support provided to low-income families during the Covid-19 pandemic via the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. 
  • Child poverty has continued to increase in the North East and Wales, and the North East has now overtaken London to have the highest child poverty rate in the UK. 
  • At a local level, local authorities and constituencies in London continue to dominate the top 20 areas with the highest child poverty rates. 
  • Rates are also high in other large urban local authorities and constituencies, including in Birmingham and Manchester, and in areas of the North East. 

You can read a copy of the report here.

RCPCH President, Dr Camilla Kingdon said:

Rising child poverty in any region of the UK is not good news, we must not forget that behind every single number is a child whose health is being damaged and life chances are being cut short. The situation is urgent. Action must be taken.

As paediatricians, we see daily the devastating impact that poverty has on babies, children and young people. The evidence clearly shows that children born into poverty are more likely to experience a wide range of health problems, including low birth weight, obesity, chronic disease and mental health problems. Alarmingly, death in childhood is also strongly linked to poverty. The current cost of living crisis has now created a perfect storm where child health outcomes are predicted to be worse.

Child poverty has fallen overall in the UK for the first time in a number of years and 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 and our Governments must take action. 

With the current Conservative leadership race, we call on each and every candidate to put children at the heart of their policy making. Children are the future of this country, and if you want to make a difference, level up, or finally bring the UK into the 21st century, we need strong leadership to shift the dial on our children’s life chances.

RCPCH Officer for Wales, Dr David Tuthill said:

Child poverty rates in Wales have grown at a pace far greater than the rest of the UK. This has disastrous implications for young people, their families and their futures across Wales.

The Welsh Government must ensure that this is the highest peak, and child poverty rates go steadily down from here. We need to see a revised Strategy to reduce child poverty. An updated strategy should provide national targets to reduce child poverty rates, with clear accountability across Government and set specific targets and actions to reduce child health inequalities. We want to ensure the best possible future for children in Wales, free from a life adversely affected by poverty.

RCPCH Officer for Ireland, Dr Ray Nethercott said:

As paediatricians we find it unacceptable that 24% of children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty. Poverty and inequality impact a child’s whole life, affecting their education, housing and social environment and in turn impacting their health.

Children in Northern Ireland need a fully functioning Government for these issues to be taken seriously and prioritised. Not least, they urgently need politicians to expedite the production of an anti-poverty strategy that includes bespoke children and young people outcomes and indicators. The health impact of poverty on children, young people and their families must be monitored and reported on, and intervention targeted to where it is needed most.

We implore politicians to prioritise action for children, we cannot go through another period of uncertainty without expecting our children to suffer more.

RCPCH Officer for Scotland, Dr Mairi Stark said:

Scotland’s child poverty problem has lasted too long. The latest stats on child poverty published today show that more work is needed to ensure Scottish children are protected from growing up in poverty and its disastrous lifelong effects.

It is imperative that all measures contained within the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act are actioned with appropriate and multi-year funding provided. Given the developing context of the cost-of-living crisis, greater detail on how the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-26 will contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of children living in poverty is vital, alongside an above inflation increase in the Scottish Child Payment is needed without delay.