‘Appalling’ rise in destitution among children in UK cities

Facade of old council tower block around Walworth area in south east London

More than half a million children in the UK are experiencing ‘extreme hardship’ at home, a new study has found.

In its bi-annual report, The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), which campaigns to help people suffering poverty,  found around 2.4 million people experienced destitution in 2019, a 54 per cent increase since 2017.

It found that one in seven people experiencing destitution are in paid work, and families with children are increasingly likely to experience destitution.

‘It is appalling so many people are going through this’

Since 2017, there has been a marked increase in levels of destitutions in all regions and types of locality, but with the greatest rise in northern cities and towns. The highest average rates of destitution are in the North East, followed by London and the North West. Yorkshire and Humber, the West Midlands and Scotland also have relatively high rates of destitution. Middlesbrough, Manchester, Hull, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham and Blackpool are some of the areas with the highest estimated rates of destitution.

Key findings were:

  • Around 2.4 million people experienced destitution in 2019
  • This included 550,000 children, a 52 per cent increase since 2017
  • Families with children are increasingly likely to experience destitution

Helen Barnard, director of JRF, said: “It is appalling that so many people are going through this distressing and degrading experience, and we should not tolerate it. No one in our society should be unable to afford to eat or keep clean and sheltered. We can and must do more.

‘No one in society should be unable to afford to eat’

“The pandemic has shown just how much we want to look out for each other in difficult times, but the sobering truth is that even before COVID-19 hit, the number of people in destitution was rising sharply. Our social security system should act as an anchor to hold us steady when we’re pulled down by powerful currents like job loss, illness or relationship breakdown.”

The Government says that making sure every child gets the best start in life is ‘central to its efforts’ to level up opportunity across the country, and that it has raised the living wage for all and boosted welfare support by billions, including £170 million to help families stay warm and well-fed over Christmas.

Click here for more information about the Joseph Rowntree Foundation,

Author: Simon Weedy

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