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The scale of child poverty across Britain revealed

While Iain Duncan Smith looks at different ways to measure poverty, the End Child Poverty Campaign has today published a map detailing child poverty in Britain.

Stratford in east london Credit: Press Association

It reveals how every pocket of Britain is faring, ward by ward, almost street by street. It uses the same poverty measurements as the Government as set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010.

The data the map is based on is from last summer, and the map shows that some progress has been made in the past 12 months.

  • Last year there were 100 wards in the UK where the majorty of children were growing up in poverty. Now that number has dropped to 69
  • The number of children living in poverty has dropped from 2.6 million in 2009/10 to 2.3 million in 2010/11 (down from 3.4 million in 1998/99)

Campaigners argue that this isn't because the battle to eradicate child poverty is being won, but because the current measurement of poverty is flawed (a Government consultation on this issue has just closed).

However, they do concede that in some poverty hotspots, where intervention has been intense, the situation has improved.

But still, on average one in 5 children in the UK are growing up below the poverty line (before housing costs).

In some areas of large cities this figure rises to more than 40 percent. The 2020 target of eradicating child poverty altogether looks anything but likely.

The highest level of child poverty, according to the study, is in Manchester Central Credit: Press Association

The map also shows the wide variation of poverty levels across the country, primarily the result of regional employment trends.

A deteriorating situation in parts of the North East is matched by an improving situation in some London Boroughs for example. Above all else, the map reveals how localised poverty can be, how life experienced within just a few miles can vary.

It is also only a measurement of economic poverty. Poverty of aspiration and opportunity can't be so easily mapped - but often walk hand in hand with economic deprivation.

How child poverty is measured in the UK

  • The national targets

There are four dimensions of poverty captured under the Child Poverty Act, each with a target to be met by 2020. They are:

  • Relative low income poverty (below 60 percent median household income)
  • Absolute low income poverty (below 60 percent of median household income held constant at 2010/11 level)
  • Persistent low income poverty (below 60 percent of median household income for three years or longer)
  • Material deprivation combined with relative low income (below 70 percent median household income and suffering from inability to afford essential spending needs)

Before housing costs, or after housing costs?

The most reported measure of child poverty is relative low income poverty, often referred to as the headline measure.

The government target is tracked using figures before housing costs, which show a lower rate of poverty because the costs of housing are so high.

The local figures given in this report also represent poverty levels before housing costs.

Tower Hamlets is also seeing high numbers of child poverty Credit: Press Association

It is therefore important to note that the local figures given in this map would be higher if measured after housing costs - especially in areas where housing is particularly expensive.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty always uses the after housing cost measure when referring to the total number of children living in poverty across the UK.