Number of Children Living in Poverty in UK Risks Hitting a Record High

Amie Sparrow
By Amie Sparrow,
updated on Feb 20, 2019

Number of Children Living in Poverty in UK Risks Hitting a Record High

Charity urges prevention and early intervention, warn that children’s circumstances growing up can have a big impact on their mental health

A study by the Resolution Foundation think tank released today warns UK households are facing stagnating living standards which could lead to a higher number of children living in poverty.

Typical working-age household incomes are not forecast to rise over the next two years due to weak nominal pay growth, according to the Living Standards Outlook 2019. The living standards outlook for low-income families is especially bad - the study says that real disposable incomes in 2023-24 are on track to be no higher than they were 20 years ago. Added to that, April 2019 will start the final year of the benefit freeze, which will reduce working age household incomes by £1.5bn.

The Foundation warns that by 2022-23, the majority of children in single parent families or in larger families (with more than two children) could be living in relative poverty.

Matt Blow, Policy Manager at young people’s mental health charity YoungMinds told Happiful, “The circumstances that children grow up in can have a big impact on their mental health - recent NHS research suggests that children living in the lowest income households are twice as likely to have a mental health condition as those in the highest income families.

“As a society, we need to make sure that we have a children’s mental health system which can keep up with demand, but we also need to look at the factors associated with poor mental health, and make sure that prevention and early intervention are genuine priorities.”

Child poverty has been increasing continuously since 2011, and the Outlook shows that ongoing welfare cuts are set to cause it to rise further. Over the next few years the proportion of children living in relative poverty (after housing costs) is on course to hit 37%, which would exceed the previous high of 34% in the early 1990s.

“The UK’s current economic outlook is highly uncertain, and will hopefully surprise on the upside. But whatever direction the economy takes, the government must reassess the continuation of working-age welfare cuts. Otherwise, its non-Brexit record risks being stained by a return to record levels of child poverty,” Adam Corlett, Senior Economic Analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said.

If the UK repeats the employment success of the last two years in the next two years - which would mean bringing an extra 900,000 people into work - growth over the next five years would increase to 2.6%, according to the Outlook.

While strengthening pay and employment is not directly within the government’s short-term control, action to prevent child poverty hitting a record high is well within their policy reach and should be a priority for politicians of all parties, according to the Foundation.

An NSPCC spokesperson told Happiful, “Any child can suffer neglect but children who grow up in poverty are more at risk, as families may be forced to live in a poorly maintained, unsafe or temporary home. Housing worries on top of money worries can put a lot of stress on parents, and this can impact their ability to provide the practical and emotional support that children need.

“It is vital that government recognises the need to support these families to stop thousands more children facing the risk of neglect and abuse by ensuring there are sufficient resources available to meet their needs, no matter where they live.”

If you are worried about your mental health, you may benefit from speaking to a professional. Enter your location in the box below to find a counsellor near you.

If you are a child or young person looking for help, please call Childline on 0800 1111.

If you are an adult concerned about a child, please call NSPCC’s helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Photo by Charlein Gracia on Unsplash

Amie Sparrow

By Amie Sparrow

Amie is a contributing writer for Happiful and PR Manager for Happiful and Memiah.

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