New report exposes extent of crisis
The End Child Poverty Coalition is putting the spotlight on the issue across the UK.
In Wales, the figures show that over 28% of children are living in poverty, and in some constituency, this rises to a 1/3 of all children. Some of the most deprived areas of the UK have seen the biggest increases in child poverty since the coalition's last release of local child poverty figures in December 2015. Increases of 10 percentage points 1 in some areas demonstrate the growing crisis of child poverty in the UK.
As price rises risk pushing ever larger numbers of children below the poverty line, the coalition is calling on the Chancellor to end the freeze on children's benefits - currently in place until the end of the decade - so that families no longer see living standards squeezed as prices rise.
The local child poverty estimates are broken down by parliamentary constituency, local authority and ward. Child poverty is prevalent across all local authorities in Wales, but especially so in the cities, the South Wales valleys and West Wales. Of the 40 parliamentary constituencies in Wales, the 10 constituencies with the highest levels of child poverty are located in South Wales.
Since the introduction of the benefit freeze, the coalition of charities, faith groups and unions has warned that as prices rise, low income families would find it increasingly hard to pay for the same basic essentials.
'It is scandalous that a child born in some parts of the UK now has a greater chance of growing up in poverty, than being in a family above the breadline', said Sam Royston, Chair of End Child Poverty and Director of Policy and Research at the Children's Society. 'There can be little doubt that the UK Government's policy of maintaining the benefits freeze despite rising prices is a major contributor to the emerging child poverty crisis.'
The coalition is also concerned that the impact of poverty may be exacerbated by a poverty premium - which means that low income families can face paying as much as £1700 per year more than better off families, to buy the same essential goods and services. A major contributor to this is the high cost of credit for low income families, and the coalition wants to see the UK Government address this by providing better access to interest free credit.
Sam Royston said 'No family in modern Britain should be struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and clothe their children. End Child Poverty is calling on the Chancellor to end the freeze on children's benefits, and to invest in interest free credit for low income families, to ensure that poverty doesn't result in spiralling debt.'
Sean O'Neill, Policy Director at Children in Wales said 'Children in low income families in Wales are facing considerable pressures and are growing in number. Figures again show that child poverty is prevalent in all parts of Wales with an increasing number of families struggling just to get by. The impact of changes introduced by the UK Governments programme of welfare reform at a time of rising everyday costs is hitting many families hard. Governments at all levels must ensure that urgent action is taken to prevent and protect families already struggling to provide for their children.
Brigitte Gater, Action for Children's National Director in Wales, said: 'We know from the frontline of supporting families in many of our 100 services in Wales how difficult it is to make ends meet. As the figures clearly show, too many of our children are living in poverty in Wales and it is actually a false economy to freeze children's benefits.
'Living in poverty and becoming engulfed in debt can lead to a host of other problems including physical and mental health issues often requiring intervention by social services and the NHS that are already under intense pressure. Government must take the lead in urgently mitigating this child poverty crisis and help struggling families.'