The number of UK children growing up in households who are living in absolute poverty has risen by 200,000 in only a year, to reach a staggering 3.1 million.
Today’s annual poverty statistics (households below average income) reveal that, after housing costs, a staggering 4.1 million UK children are living in poverty, with 3.7 million of these in absolute poverty. 30% of UK children are now trapped below the breadline.
Overall, the number of people across the UK who are living in absolute poverty increased by 100,000 in the last year, with the total figure standing at an eyewatering 12.5 million.
Meanwhile, the proportion of poor children who are growing up in working families has increased from 67% to 70%, pooring cold water on to the long-held belief that moving into work is the only guaranteed route out of poverty.
Perhaps most worrying of all is the number of under 5’s who are living in poverty, which as risen from 51% to 53% – the equivalent of 2 million children.
The embarrassing statistics should serve as a wake up call to Tory ministers who, in defense of government welfare cuts, have repeatedly claimed that absolute poverty has been falling.
The release of today’s poverty figures coincide with new research from the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), that warns the 4 year freeze on children’s benefits will lead to average loses of £240 per year for families, whilst adding that the policy looks set to push a further 100,000 children into poverty by 2023-24.
Child Benefit alone has lost almost a quarter of its value simply because it has not been updated inline with rising living costs, say CPAG.
CPAG added, that for many families, the total losses will be much higher because of the colossal impact of other tax and benefit changes, some of which have yet to come in to force or haven’t been fully realised.
Chief Executive of CPAG Alison Garnham said: “Today’s poverty figures make grim reading with more than 4.1 million children still in poverty and a jump in the proportion of poor children in working families.
“Despite high employment, today’s figures reveal that 70% of children living under the poverty line have at least one parent in work. That is not an economy that is working for everyone.
“The increase in child poverty in working families was widely anticipated and could have been avoided.
“A coalition of charities came together to ask the Chancellor to take the opportunity of his Spring Statement to end the benefit freeze and bring families in from the cold.
“But the government chose not to, missing another opportunity to do the right thing for children and families despite the fact that the freeze had already achieved its planned savings.”
Kate Henderson Chief executive of the National Housing Federation said: “Year after year hundreds of thousands of more hard working families are falling into poverty – forced to choose between feeding and clothing their children or providing a roof over their heads.
“We are now seeing the full effects of low pay, benefit cuts and the housing crisis. The lack of affordable homes is exacerbating in-work poverty.
“There could not be a clearer signal to the Government that the country desperately needs more social housing – direct investment in the upcoming spending review is the only way to provide truly affordable homes for these families. This is more crucial than ever in the midst of Brexit uncertainty.”
Adam Corlett, Senior Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Typical household income growth ground to a halt in 2017 as a result of high inflation and weak pay growth.
“Ongoing benefit cuts also meant that the number of children living in absolute poverty also increased by 200,000 – the first time this has happened since 2012.
“With the bulk of the government’s £12bn of welfare cuts taking place after this period, child poverty is likely to continue rising, and could even hit a record high within the next few years.
“The political conversation around austerity may have shifted but the lived experience of it hasn’t for millions of families.
“Reducing child poverty needs to return to near the top of the government’s priority list.”
A government spokesperson said ministers were “looking at what more can be done to help the most vulnerable and improve their life chances”.
They added: “Tackling poverty will always be a priority for this government, and we take these numbers extremely seriously.
“Employment is at a record high, wages are outstripping inflation and income inequality and absolute poverty are lower than in 2010.
“But we know some families need more support, which is why we continue to spend £95bn a year on working-age benefits.”