Tower Hamlets still has the highest level of child poverty in the UK despite the numbers dropping by one-fifth in the past year, new figures reveal.
Forty-two per cent of children in Tower Hamlets are living in impoverished conditions, compared to 52 per cent in the previous year, according to a report by the campaign group End Child Poverty.
The figure reflects the number of households in the borough earning less than £7,950 annually, which is 60 per cent of the national average of £26,950, the accepted definition of the poverty level. This is in stark contrast from the average salary of those who work in the borough, which is £58,000 – the second highest in the UK – creating an average income inequality of £50,050.
The campaign, an alliance of more than 150 organisations including charities, child welfare organisations, social justice groups and unions has published the figures on a map of child poverty in the whole of the UK, which suggests that one in five children are living below the poverty line.
Mayor Lutfur Rahman said: “End Child Poverty are rightly concerned with the difficulties that families in poverty face, and I think that the Government should listen to the practitioners, the Think Tanks and the charities that are concerned with children and families welfare across the UK, to re-consider their approach.
“The children and families targeted by welfare reform need support services to help them get out of the poverty trap, not proposals to force them further into it.”
Rushanara Ali, the Labour MP for Bethnal Green said: “This crisis will only escalate when the damaging new welfare reforms come into effect this April.
“14,000 working families in Tower Hamlets will be hit by the cuts to working tax credits. These cuts will see even more children and families pushed into poverty as family budgets continue to be squeezed because the Government is cutting too far too fast.”
Other Eastlondonlines boroughs have high levels of poverty, with 30 per cent of Hackney’s children living in similar conditions to Tower Hamlets. Croydon and Lewisham having slightly lower levels, with 25 per cent and 26 per cent child poverty rates respectively.
Enver Solomon, chair of End Child Poverty, said: “Our map shows that in every region the gross disparities in child poverty levels that have existed for many years are deeply entrenched and are set to become an enduring reality as many more children become trapped in long-term poverty and disadvantage.”
The campaign called for local authorities to prioritise low-income families in the decisions they make about welfare spending. Solomon said: “Far too many children whose parents are struggling to make a living are having to go hungry and miss out on the essentials of a decent childhood that all young people should be entitled to.”
The Child Poverty Act that was passed in 2010 with cross-party support, commits successive governments to the eradication of child poverty by 2020. However, figures suggest the current government is falling somewhat short, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting a growth in children living in poverty of 400,000 between 2011 and 2015, and a total of 800,000 by 2020.
By Courtney Greatrex