UK children facing poverty: new research highlights need for drastic action

22nd February 2024

New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows that the severity of poverty in the UK is getting worse. More people are experiencing poverty, and those people are facing a more extreme level of poverty than in previous years.

It’s not simply a case of having to skip the odd meal in response to extortionate supermarket costs—severe poverty digs its fingers into every part of day-to-day life, restricting your freedom and narrowing your choices down. Here, the term ‘poverty’ is far-reaching, covering:

  • hunger
  • food bank referrals
  • the need for temporary accommodation
  • social isolation
  • physical and mental health
  • education
  • unaffordable energy bills
  • transport costs.

Destitution, the worst type of poverty, is impacting more people than ever, which means that they are unable to afford the most basic human needs, keeping warm, dry, fed, and clean. 3.2 million people were affected by destitution in 2022, according to JRF.

Sadly, the research paper shows that children are the age group most likely to be affected by hardship in the UK. That’s why Manchester South Central Food Bank is supporting the National Education Union’s No Child Left Behind Campaign; if children have enough to eat, they are healthier and happier.

That’s not to say that children are the only age group affected, as austerity, Brexit, the pandemic, and the cost-of-living crisis have combined to impact nearly everyone living in the UK. In 2022, more than 1 in 5 people were living in poverty—that’s 14.4 million people.

Organisations such JRF use statistical analysis to closely monitor the impact and prevalence of poverty across the country. These figures show that poverty levels have been increasing consistently for the last 20 years, even though we are living in the sixth richest country in the world. Within the UK, children in England are the most likely to be affected.

This highlights an urgent need for the government to address this growing problem; poverty isn’t going to go away by itself. There’s desperate need for better social housing, economic security for people on lower household incomes, improving care services, and sufficient support for those unable to work.

However, change is possible. The government will need to implement innovative new policies in response to save millions from the damaging effect of destitution and hunger.

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Written by Katie McCall

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