New national statistics shows sharp rise in child poverty across the UK over the last 5 years.
This national picture is also seen in Tower Hamlets, where the number of children living in poverty has increased from 30,728 in 2014/15 to 35,807 in 2019/20.
The National Education Union has launched its ‘No Child Left Behind’ campaign which is fighting to break down the barriers poverty puts up around equal access to education.
New analysis published by the End Child Poverty Coalition (ECPC) shows a sharp rise in child poverty across Britain in the last 5 years, with 500,000 more children living in poverty after housing costs than in 2015. Researchers combined data on child poverty published by the Department for Work and Pensions in May with information about local housing costs to build a detailed picture of child poverty across the country.
Child poverty was rising sharply even before the Covid-19 pandemic, which is feared to have exacerbated the situation even further. The research also shows that three quarters (75%) of children living in poverty in 2019/20 were in households with at least one working adult; up from two thirds (67%) in 2014/15.
The new research shows that in the constituency Bethnal Green and Bow, the number of children living in poverty has risen from 15,024 in 2014/15 to 17,209 in 2019/20. In Poplar and Limehouse across the same time period, the numbers have risen from 15,704 to 18,598. This means the total number of children across Tower Hamlets living in poverty has increased from 30,728 in 2014/15 to 35,807 in 2019/20.
Research from the ECPC in October last year showed the stark impact that London’s high housing costs has on child poverty, with the two Tower Hamlets constituencies (Bethnal Green & Bow, and Poplar & Limehouse) both listed in the top 6 constituencies where high housing costs pushed a large percentage of children into poverty.
Tower Hamlets Council funds a range of tackling poverty measures through its Tackling Poverty Fund, and provides a Council Tax Reduction Scheme with council tax reductions of up to and including 100% depending on circumstances (meaning the most disadvantaged don’t have to pay a single penny of council tax, with over 31,000 households in Tower Hamlets receiving some level of discount, and of these 20,856 receiving a 100% discount in their council tax bill). The council also funds holiday hunger programmes and provides universal free school meals (FSM) to all primary school pupils, going significantly beyond the Government-funded FSM programme which only funds FSM for some children.
Tower Hamlets Council’s Every Child Online campaign, launched in February 2021 to tackle digital disadvantage by ensuring that children have the kit and connectivity to access online learning, has also raised £179,218 to date. It is a partnership of Tower Hamlets Council, the Tower Hamlets’ Education Partnership and Community Fibre, who are working together to tackle digital disadvantage.
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs is also backing the National Education Union’s (NEU) ‘No Child Left Behind’ campaign which calls on the Government to act to give children trapped in poverty the access to education they need.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “These figures are heart-breaking. The Tory Government has presided over a staggering increase in child poverty right across the country, with significant impacts in areas like London with high housing costs.
“As a council we work hard to fill in the gaps left by the Conservatives, offering lifelines to the poorest people across Tower Hamlets such as our Tackling Poverty Fund and offering Free School Meals to all primary children in the borough.
“However the reality is that local councils can only do so much, and we need the Government to do much more. That’s why I’m supporting the NEU’s ‘No Child Left Behind’ campaign and urge ministers to do the same.”
Cllr Asma Begum, Deputy Mayor for Children, Youth Services and Education, said: “These new stats give more detail about the devastating impact of austerity on children in our borough, and shows how rapidly child poverty has increased across the country over the last 5 years.
“We do a huge amount of work as a council to tackle poverty but many of the Government’s policies, such as welfare reforms and housing policies, really undermine our work and keep pushing more children into poverty.”
Alex Kenny, NEU District Secretary, said: “The Covid crisis has highlighted the impact of poverty on the experience of children in our schools. In the last year, our members have seen all too clearly the barriers faced by children from our poorest families.
“This is something this government must address as an urgent priority.
“Government talk of ‘levelling up’ is just rhetoric if it is not matched with serious commitments on funding and policy. Last week the government announced extra catch-up funding of just £50 per child, which goes nowhere near meeting the needs of our children.
“We are pleased to be working with councillors and the Mayor to put pressure on government to make sure that no child is left behind.”