Time for progress on child poverty to be a priority

Poverty Child jumping in a puddle
ViewsJune 6th, 2024

Child poverty figures show that 1 in 4 children live in poverty in most constituencies in Wales. Joel Davies (Policy and Research Officer) looks at the implications.

Loughborough University has published a new report in partnership with the End Child Poverty Coalition which shows that high levels of child poverty are present across localities in Wales.

The release is based on official data collected by the DWP and adds more detail to the national figures which we analysed for Wales earlier this year. It is the best source of data available on what is happening with child poverty in local areas.

Across Wales, 29% of children are living in relative income poverty after housing costs are considered—a shockingly high rate which has remained stable for more than a decade. Crucially, however, this research tells us that while there is some variation between local areas, nowhere in Wales escapes the reality of unacceptable rates of child poverty.  

In all but two of Wales’s local authority areas more than 1 in 4 children live in poverty, and no local authority in Wales has a child poverty rate of less than 20%, or 1 in 5. 

The story is similar when Wales is carved up by the new parliamentary constituency boundaries which candidates will contest in the upcoming General Election. A quarter or more of children are living in poverty in 28 out of the 32 Welsh constituencies. All new or returning MPs will have a stake in the problem of child poverty and must take their seats with a resolve to tackle it.

Stats show a strong relationship between the two-child limit and rates of child poverty.

Children born since April 2017 have been subject to a cap on means-tested benefit payments if there are already two or more children in their family. This means a reduction in household income of up to £3,455 per affected child. While the rationale for the policy is, in part, that people receiving means-tested benefits should be incentivised to make decisions about whether to have children according to their means, robust analysis has shown that it has not had a significant effect on fertility rates. Employment rates amongst low-income, larger families have also been unaffected.

On the other hand, there are very good reasons to conclude that it has succeeded in pushing hundreds of thousands of children into poverty. In Wales, 11% of all children —more than 65,000—live in a household that is affected by the two-child limit. The report lays bare an extremely high correlation between the rate of child poverty and the proportion of children affected by the two-child limit in each constituency. The correlation holds in Wales and the rest of the UK. The cap amounts to an unjust and punitive policy which primarily disadvantages children who bear zero responsibility for either their existence or their family’s financial situation.

We cannot afford the costs of falling short on child poverty.

The Bevan Foundation is joining with the End Child Poverty Coalition to call on all political parties to make tackling child poverty a priority in this General Election. A comprehensive strategy is crucial and should start with the most obvious and effective steps. Removing the two-child limit is a no-brainer; at an estimated cost of £1.8bn the government could pull around 300,000 children out of poverty and lessen the severity of poverty for a further 800,000—this compared to the severe costs of child poverty to the health and life chances of children, estimated in economic terms to amount to £39bn a year.

It’s time for our social security system to be made fit for the 21st century. It should be non-negotiable that our society ensures essential costs of living are met according to need, protecting the rights of everyone, but especially children, to thrive.

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