Today’s child poverty figures show that child poverty in the UK is increasing across the board, and that the youngest children continue to be most at risk.
Our analysis shows that since 2010, over 400,000 more children in households with children under 5 are in poverty, an increase of over a quarter over this period.
What’s more, almost three quarters of the increase in overall child poverty since 2010 is accounted for by families with the youngest children. That means that the rise in child poverty has primarily been among families with children under five.
It is truly shocking that in 21st century Britain rising numbers of children are growing up in poverty. This is having a deep and profound effect on children’s lives.
Poverty in the early years has immediate and long-term effect on a child’s life chances
Children growing up in poverty in the early years are doubly impacted; they are much more likely to struggle with their early learning and, as a result, they are at much greater risk of struggling in primary and secondary school.
This happens in part because poverty puts tremendous pressure on families. Parents are often juggling irregular work and shift patterns and navigating a system that can seem set up against them and which isn’t doing enough to help family incomes.
But it also happens because families often don’t have the money to give their children the types of environments and experiences that others have. We know from talking to families that this creates huge stress for parents who are trying to do the best for their children.
This mix of stress, a system that isn’t doing enough to help families, and the financial constraints of poverty, are the drivers of children struggling in the early years and they are all driven by poverty and low income.
Firm foundations in the early years can offset some of the impact of poverty
The evidence is clear that poverty in these years is often the root cause of problems in later life. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
When children have firm foundations, they are far more likely to do well in school and later life. And this is true even after accounting for the impact of poverty.
That’s why our work in the UK is focused on helping the youngest children by supporting families in the home and by ensuring that children have access to high quality experiences in nursery and school.
We deliver programmes like Building Blocks, which helps to ensure that families have the types of materials that support children’s early learning, and Families Connect, which help parents support their own children’s early learning.
And we’re campaigning on childcare to ensure children have access to high quality early education, that is affordable and helps parents to work.
But much more needs to be done to address child poverty
The message from our work in the UK is that we can partially offset the impact of poverty through supporting children and families. Regardless of income, when children have access to high quality learning experiences and environments, they see a boost to their learning.
But all indicators are pointing towards increasing child poverty in the coming years. If we don’t see further action, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands more children will fall into poverty – and fall further behind their better off peers..
Even with the support that exists, poverty won’t disappear by itself; we need to see significant and sustained action to reverse these figures, to prevent these predicted increases, and to avoid the harmful effects of poverty on children’s life chances.
Government needs to urgently act on these figures
It’s in our power to prevent further increases in child poverty and reverse current trends.
We must continue to address the effects of poverty, a but much more needs to be done to address the causes, particularly in the critical first few years of a child’s life.
That’s why today we’re calling on government to recognise and act on child poverty. If the government is committed to boosting social mobility, we need to see urgent action to reverse the trend of rising child poverty.