Bristol has highest levels of child povery in the South West

A third of children are living in poverty in Bristol – equating to ten school children out of a class of 30 – according to new data. The city has the highest levels of child poverty across the whole South West region.

New research by Loughborough University has been conducted on behalf of the End Child Poverty Coalition’s annual review of UK child poverty levels in local authorities. In Bristol, this figure reaches a third – 32.6 per cent – of all children and young people – or a staggering 10 children in a classroom of 30.

The local authority with the second-highest level of child poverty is Torridge in North Devon. In the South West as a whole, a quarter of children are living in poverty, or eight children in a class of 30 using the latest data available between 2020 and 2021.

Must read: The reality of Bristol’s cost of living crisis – from skipping meals to rough sleeping

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “Child poverty isn’t inevitable, the government can make changes to ensure that families are able to afford the basics for their children.

“We need urgent decisive action to ensure that next year we aren’t reporting exactly the same figures for the South West. All children in the South West and across the UK deserve to live free of poverty and to have the same chances as their peers.”

A table shows the South West local authorities with the highest percentage of children living in poverty between 2020 and 2021.

Local Authority

Percentage of children living in poverty in 2020/21

Bristol, City of32.6%
North Devon28.0%
Forest of Dean26.1%
Mid Devon25.6%

Child poverty levels across the South West of England and across the UK have remained high over the last decade. A temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit was introduced during the pandemic in April 2020, which helped reduce overall UK child poverty levels by four percentage points in a single year.

This uplift was removed in a controversial decision in October last year, equating to £1040 less a year for claimants. For low income families, this now means an increased reliance on food banks, parents skipping meals and struggling to pay for school uniforms – on top of a worsening cost of living crisis across the UK.

The data covers the first year of the Covid pandemic, which was also the year that saw poorer households receive the £20 Universal Credit uplift. Whilst in other regions across the UK it seems that this uplift has had more of an impact on child poverty figures, this trend is not reflected in the South West.

The End Child Poverty Coalition suggests this could be because many people in the region were in receipt of legacy benefits and so did not receive Universal Credit payments during the pandemic, therefore they would not have received the extra cash uplift.

In 2020/21, 40 per cent of children in lone-parent households were in poverty (compared to 24 per cent of those in couple-parent households). The latest data available also shows children from Black and minority ethnic groups are more likely to be in poverty, at 46 per cent, compared with 26 per cent of children in white British families.

The coalition has urged MPs to continue to find ways of making social security more adequate in the long term so that every family can afford the essentials. Specifically, the government must ensure:

It has advised the Government should ensure Universal Credit payments deductions are reduced and the benefit cap abolished. The coalition also believes there should be improved access to free or affordable childcare and that Free School Meals in England and Wales should be extended to all children in families receiving Universal Credit.

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