'They are being forgotten': Record number of children in poverty branded ‘an outrage’

The latest figure is the highest since comparable records for the UK began in 2002/03

The number of children living in poverty across the UK has hit a record high, with campaigners saying they are being failed and forgotten.

There were an estimated 4.33 million children in households in relative low income after housing costs in the year to March 2023.

This is up from 4.22 million the previous year and is above the previous high of 4.28 million in the year to March 2020.

The latest figure is the highest since comparable records for the UK began in 2002/03.

A household is considered to be in relative poverty if it is below 60% of the median income after housing costs.

Meghan Meek-O’Connor, senior child poverty policy adviser at Save the Children UK, said: “Today 4.3 million children are being failed. It is an outrage that 100,000 more children are in poverty – they are being forgotten.

“These shocking figures should be an urgent wake-up call to all of us, especially the UK government.

"We cannot go on like this. There is no reason children should be going without food, heating, toys, or beds.“

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Campaign groups are calling on the government to focus on reducing child poverty, making repeated demands to scrap the two-child limit on benefit payments and for an essentials guarantee to ensure households can cover basic costs such as food and household bills.

The estimated total number of people in relative low income was at 14.35 million in the year to March 2023, down from 14.40 million the previous year, according to official government figures.

Social change organisation the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said absolute poverty – another measure which looks at households with less than 60% of the median income in 2010/11, uprated by inflation – would usually be expected to fall year on year as a nation becomes more prosperous.

But Thursday’s figures showed a rise for the second year in a row, with 600,000 more people, half of them children, living in absolute poverty – equivalent to 25% of children.

There were an estimated 11.99 million people in absolute poverty in the UK in the year to March 2023, up from 11.39 million the previous year.

JRF chief analyst Peter Matejic said: “The annual poverty figures published today confirm that the government failed to protect the most vulnerable from the cost-of-living crisis.“

Labour said the statistics on children in poverty are “horrifying” and pledged to “fix this Tory failure yet again with a new cross-government child poverty strategy” should it win the general election.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said the government had “stepped in with the biggest cost-of-living package in Europe, worth an average of £3,800 per household”, which he said has “prevented 1.3 million people from falling into poverty in 2022/23”.

He also pointed to the uprating of benefits and pensions from April and the extension of the Household Support Fund.

Downing Street said the statistics must be looked at in the context of covering a period of high inflation and said cost-of-living pressures on many families have now “eased”, but it acknowledged others still face challenges.

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