Child poverty in Barnet at highest level in six years before pandemic
Child poverty in Barnet rose to the highest level in six years before the coronavirus pandemic hit, figures reveal.
With child poverty hitting "devastatingly high" levels across the UK, charities are urging the Government to take action to prevent more families from falling into hardship when the crisis ends.
Department for Work and Pensions data shows in Barnet, 11,781 children aged under 16 were living in families with low incomes in 2019-20 – an estimated 14% of all youngsters in the area. That was up from 13% the year before, and the largest proportion since comparable records began in 2014-15.
A family is defined as low income if it earns less than 60% of the national median household income before housing costs are considered. Families are included in the figures if they have claimed child benefit alongside another means of support, such as Universal Credit, tax credits or housing benefit, at some point in the year.
Of the children in poverty in Barnet last year, 2,951 (25%) were below school age. The vast majority of children (81%) were in working households, while 31% were in lone-parent families. They were among 337,100 under-16s in poverty across London as a whole last year.
Different figures show that across the UK, a record 3.2 million children were living in relative poverty in 2019-20 – with the figure rising to 4.3 million after housing costs were taken into account.
Rising poverty has been challenging for youth in Barnet. Unitas Youth Zone said:
“As we emerge from lockdown, the rising levels of child poverty in Barnet have important implications for employment, education, and health and wellbeing as well as service provision. Since opening in 2019, Unitas Youth Zone has strived to give all young people in Barnet somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to. At this crucial time, we continue to provide the opportunities and support that young people need and deserve, to secure healthier, happier and more aspirational lives.”
Unitas Youth Zone works with young people in the community to provide opportunities at a local level but campaigners warn that the government must take action to prevent further harm.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at charity Action for Children, said:
"The Government is in denial over child poverty which continues to rise and threatens to torpedo its flagship plans for levelling up. Experts have warned that child poverty will rise even further after the pandemic, with working families facing a double threat this coming winter to their living standards as unemployment peaks and Universal Credit is cut. Three-quarters of children in poverty live in working families."
Mr Hussain said families with children have been among the hardest hit by the pandemic. "It’s vital the Government brings forward a credible plan to reduce poverty. It can start by making permanent the vital uplift in Universal Credit," he added.
The Child Poverty Action Group, which is also calling for a boost to benefit payments, said the "dismal" figures show leaders need to take urgent action.
Chief executive Alison Garnham said: "Increasing child benefit by £10 per week would lift 450,000 children from poverty. One year from now we should not have to look at data showing even more children have fallen into poverty because of government inaction. We badly need a cross-government strategy to end child poverty and increasing child benefit should be the first action point."
Work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey said average household incomes saw their strongest annual growth for nearly 20 years in 2019-20, meaning families went into the pandemic on a "firm financial footing".
"We have since increased our support with an unprecedented package of measures targeting those with the lowest incomes to help families through a difficult year," she added.
"Our relentless focus as we build back better is on getting Britain back on its feet through our multi-billion-pound Plan For Jobs."
Photo by Michał Parzuchowski on Unsplash