UK child poverty shows slight fall
The number of children living below the poverty line in the UK has fallen slightly, but the figure remains stubbornly above two million, official figures showed last Thursday.
Some 18 per cent of children were living in households in the UK with incomes of less than 60 per cent of the median average in 2010/11, equating to 2.3 million children, according to figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions.
When housing costs were taken into account, this share rose to more than a quarter (27 per cent) of children, representing 3.6 million people.
The figures show 300,000 fewer children are living in poverty than they were a year earlier, or 200,000 fewer after housing costs are taken into account.
Both measures are two per cent below the figures for 2009/10, but they show the Government has some way to go to meet a Labour target, enshrined in law, to eliminate child poverty by 2020.
The figures also fall short of a pledge by Labour a decade ago when 3.4 million children were living in poverty to halve child poverty by 2010/11.
Compared with 1998/99, the number of children living in poverty was 1.1 million lower before housing costs and a 900,000 fall after housing costs were taken into account.
Justin Forsyth, Save the Children’s chief executive, said: “The reality is that there are 3.6 million children growing up in poverty in the UK, children without a winter coat or going to bed hungry, and this number is set to grow.
“The government needs to focus not on changing definitions but on policies that work, like the living wage, affordable child care and on early education programmes targeted at low income families that allow children to get the very most out of school.”
Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children’s Society, said: “Today’s figures show that although the interim child poverty target has not been met, action since the start of the millennium has pulled 1.1 million children out of poverty.”
He added: “It is shameful that over the coming decade this progress is likely to be reversed by the government’s drastic cuts to support and services for the country’s most vulnerable children and families. Child poverty is a scar on our national conscience.”
The number of working age adults living in poverty has risen since 1998/99, although the figures have fallen back slightly on the previous year.
Some 5.5 million working age adults – or 15 per cent – were found to be living in poverty, rising to 21 per cent or 7.8 million after housing costs.
These figures are a rise of half a million working age people in poverty before housing costs and a 1.1 million increase after housing costs, compared with 1998/99.
Across the whole population, 9.8 million people, representing 16 per cent across the UK, were in households with incomes below the poverty line in 2010/11, rising to more than a fifth (21 per cent) or 13 million people, after housing costs were taken into account.
This is a fall of around half a million people on both measures compared with a year earlier.
The level of income which defines someone living in poverty was set as £251 (€309) per week.
The latest study also found that two million pensioners were living in poverty before housing costs, representing 17 per cent of pensioners, a drop of one per cent on the previous year.
Compared with 1998/99, 700,000 fewer pensioners were found to be living in poverty, a fall of nine per cent.
The latest figures show the sharpest one-year fall in middle incomes since 1981, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said, reversing five years of growth in a single year.
After accounting for inflation, median incomes in 2010/11 were no higher than they were in 2004/05.
The 3.1 per cent drop in median household income after inflation follows “surprising” growth in incomes between 2008 and 2010, the IFS said, when falling inflation and increases in benefits and tax credits supported household finances in the face of rising unemployment.