The Child Poverty Action Group has released its latest poverty map: showing exactly where largest numbers of children living in poverty, and the biggest increases in child poverty have been. Child poverty fell steadily under the last Labour government and for the first three years of the coalition but has been rising ever since.
Here are the top ten constituencies with the highest rate of child poverty: Bow and Bethnal Green, Birmingham Ladywood, Poplar and Limehouse, Birmingham Hodge Hill, Birmingham Hall Green, Manchester Central, Bradford West, Bradford East, Oldham West and Royton. Bethnal Green, Ladywood, Poplar, and Hodge Hill all have poverty rates above the 50 per cent mark while none of the top ten have child poverty rates of below 45 per cent.
The first thing to note is that the huge amount of in-work poverty. While unemployment is part of the story of poverty in the United Kingdom – Ladywood has the highest number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance in the country – it is a very small part of the story. A hair under one adult in ten living in Ladywood is unemployed – but more than half of all children living in that constituency live in poverty.
The biggest driver of the increase in child poverty are the cuts to in-work benefits, something that becomes even more stark when you look at the top ten seats with the biggest increase in the child poverty rate: Bethnal Green and Bow, Oldham West and Royton, Bradford West, Poplar and Limehouse, Bradford East, Keighley, Blackburn, Birmingham Hodge Hill, Birmingham Perry Barr and Leicester South.
In Bow and Bethnal Green, which both has the largest number of children living in poverty and the biggest increase in child poverty, unemployment fell by four points but child poverty went up by 11 points. The same picture – of decreasing unemployment and rising poverty – can be found in Bradford East, Blackburn, Keighley and Leicester South. In Leicester South, the claimant count fell by a staggering 17 points but child poverty went up by eight per cent.
There is another particular characteristic about the top ten seats with the biggest rises in child poverty and indeed 18 of the top 20 seats with the biggest rises that is worth noting: large numbers of children from immigrant backgrounds, particularly those from the Indian sub-continent. What’s happening here is the consequence of the elimination of child benefit after the second child, which has a particular impact on these communities. (Note, this change isn’t even grandfathered in but retrospective: people can’t decide to simply travel back in time and not have these children.) You could call it the final policy legacy of George Osborne.