British life-style: 300,000 more UK children fell into absolute poverty

10:31 23.03.2024 •

About 300,000 more children were plunged into absolute poverty in a single year at the height of the cost of living crisis amid soaring levels of hunger and food bank use, official figures show, prompting calls for an overhaul of the UK’s creaking welfare safety net, ‘The Guardian’ writes.

Campaigners accused the government of failing to protect the UK’s poorest families as the latest poverty statistics showed 600,000 more people fell into absolute poverty – ministers’ preferred poverty measure – in 2022-23 when inflation was at its 10% peak.

Overall, during the year 12 million people were in absolute poverty – equivalent to 18% of the population, including 3.6 million children – levels of hardship last seen in 2011-12 after the financial crash.

Campaigners said the meagreness of welfare benefits was highlighted by sharp rises in food insecurity and food bank use. One in 10 people in poverty relied on food banks during the year, while 41% of universal credit claimants were food insecure, meaning they could not afford to buy sufficient food.

The latest households below average income statistics, published by the Department for Work and Pensions, also showed that in 2022-23:

  • More than two-thirds (69%) of UK children in poverty lived in families where at least one parent works, while 44% of children in lone-parent families were in poverty.
  • An estimated 2.9 million children were in deep poverty, meaning their income was at least 50% below the poverty line. Nearly half (46%) of all families with three or more children were in poverty.
  • Nearly one in 10 (8%) of pensioners struggled to eat regularly, pay essential bills or keep their home warm, up 2 percentage points year on year, and the first increase in material hardship measures among the over-65s since 2014.
  • Child poverty also increased on the relative poverty measure that is preferred by campaigners, with 100,000 more young people pulled beneath the poverty line, meaning that a third of UK children (4.3 million) were in poverty in 2022-23 on this calculation.

Alison Garnham, the chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “In a general election year, nothing should be more important to our political leaders than making things better for the country’s poorest kids. But child poverty has reached a record high, with 4.3 million kids now facing cold homes and empty tummies.”

Charities said the second successive annual rise in absolute poverty figures showed it had failed to do enough. “The government’s short-term interventions to date haven’t stopped the incomes of poorer households from being swallowed up by the soaring cost of essentials,” said Peter Matejic, the chief analyst at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

The three council areas of England with the largest rises in child poverty over the past decade (2014-15 to 2022-23), according to the NEF, were Nottingham (up 16 percentage points, with 40% of children in poverty), Birmingham (up 14 points, 41%) and Leicester (up 13 points, 41%).


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