Poverty can be measured in two ways. Relative poverty is a calculation of income available to a person or family. If their income is below 60% of the average income across the country, then they are determined to be living in relative poverty. This is called the poverty line.
Absolute poverty looks at the average income of a household today, and compares this to 60% of the average household income earned in 2010 to make a comparison across a number of years.
Research indicates that after housing costs, relative poverty equates to income less than: £248 a week for a couple with no children; £144 a week for a single person with no children; £401 a week for a couple with two children aged between five and 14; £297 a week for single parent with two children aged between five and 14 (Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2018).
UK child poverty affects more than 4 million children (30%) or nine in a classroom of 30. They may experience poor physical and mental health and may not reach their full potential in school. Research shows links to family unemployment, poor housing, debt, homelessness and poor life chances (Children’s Society, UK Government, Full Fact).
Each country in the UK has introduced a Children’s (and Young People’s) Commissioner, responsible for promoting the rights and protections of children, and to advocate for their interests in policies and decisions that will affect their lives. Wickham et al’s research from 2016 state that health care professionals need to act as advocates for more equitable welfare reform and provide services to reduce the health consequences of growing up in poverty.
The Westminster Government’s Child Poverty Act 2010 set UK-wide targets to end child poverty by 2020. It required each country to have Government-led strategies for eradicating child poverty, placing statutory duties on local authorities and regional bodies to cooperate to tackle child poverty, report on child poverty levels and prepare a local strategy in their areas.
For England, the Department for Work and Pensions jointly with the Department of Education published a strategy which set out ambitions to tackle the causes of disadvantage and transform families’ lives. This included moves to Universal Credit and ensuring fewer children grew up in workless households which were linked to lower educational attainment.
The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 places a duty on the Scottish Government to eradicate child poverty by 2030. The Scottish Government target followed a report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, chaired by Alan Milburn which concluded that the 2020 child poverty target was likely to be missed by a considerable margin. To accompany their devolved target, the Scottish Government (2018) also published Every Child, Every Chance: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2018-22.
In Northern Ireland, the End Child Poverty campaign reported that around 25% of children in Northern Ireland were living in poverty last year (End Child Poverty, 2018). The Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children estimates that the majority (61%) live in households with at least one parent who is working.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies warns that the level of child poverty in Northern Ireland will increase to more than 30% by 2020 without major interventions to support family income and opportunities for low income children (Hood and Waters, 2017). The Welsh Government launched its Child Poverty Strategy in 2011, affirming its ambition to end child poverty by 2020.
The strategy outlines objectives to reduce the number of families living in workless households; improve the skills of parents and young people living in low income households; and reduce inequalities that exist in health and education outcomes. Initiatives include the Healthy Child Wales Programme, seeking to deliver a universal health service to all children. A 2016 report stated progress had been made against all priority areas, but clearly further progress is still required. The progress report is due to be published in 2019.
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Page last updated - 20/10/2019