THE latest official poverty statistics show child poverty in the UK has reached a record high, with an estimated 100,000 more children pulled into poverty last year.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)’s annual Households Below Average Income shows 4.3 million children (30 per cent) were in poverty in the year to April 2023.

The figures reveal that 69 per cent of poor children live in working families, and poor families have fallen deeper into poverty.  Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of Child Poverty Action Group and Vice-Chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition, said: “In a general election year, nothing should be more important to our political leaders than making things better for the country’s poorest kids. But child poverty has reached a record high, with 4.3 million kids now facing cold homes and empty tummies.

“We know that change is possible but we need to see a commitment from all parties to scrap the two child limit and increase child benefits. Anything less would be a betrayal of Britain’s children.”

Schools are seeing the effects of rising child poverty every day. Tom Prestwich, Headteacher at Jubilee Primary School in Lambeth said: “The levels of poverty we are seeing in school now and the numbers of children affected by it, are the worst I have seen. This can have a significant impact on our pupils’ ability to learn and on their overall wellbeing. Pupils who are coming to school hungry, pupils who are overtired because they are struggling to sleep in difficult home conditions, pupils who are cold or uncomfortable because of the clothes they have to wear are all at a disadvantage right from the start of their day.

“We do as much as we can to counteract this. We have breakfast clubs, give out fruit and bagels every day, give out old uniforms and support as much as we can with parents battling for improved housing but it does feel like the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged families is widening. This is happening at a time when school budgets are ever more stretched and our capacity to help and support families is reduced as a result.”

Simon Kidwell, head teacher at Hartford Manor Primary School in Cheshire, and president of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “At my school even working families are accessing local food banks and seeking support with uniform and school trip expenses. We hear from our members how schools are increasingly finding themselves having to step in and support pupils and families, with local authority budgets stretched to breaking point.”

In addition to the rise in relative child poverty (measured as living on less than 60 per cent of today’s median income) the DWP’s figures show an increase in the number of children in absolute poverty (measured as living on less than 60 per cent of what the median income was in 2010). Since absolute poverty should always reduce over time as living standards generally rise, the increase is a clear warning that not only are more children being dragged below the relative poverty line, but living standards for children are falling over time, their hardship deepening.

In contrast to the rest of the UK, CPAG says child poverty is stable and should soon be falling in Scotland because of the full roll out of the Scottish Child Payment, which is  £26.70 per week for every eligible child under 16, with no two child limit.

* Read Households Below Average Income statistics here.

* Read Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland 2020-23 here.

* Source: Child Poverty Action Group