Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Lewisham are among the 20 local authorities with the highest levels of child poverty in the UK, according to a new report from a children’s organisation.
The report, released last month by The Campaign to End Child Poverty, an association made up of more than 150 welfare charities, faith groups and trade unions, lists Tower Hamlets as the area that is worst affected.
In response to the report, Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman said: “Supporting vulnerable children and their families is one of my top priorities and we continue to work with our partners in tackling child poverty. In light of central government cuts, we must work even harder to ensure our services reach those who need them most.”
He added: “Tower Hamlets Council recently set up the Fairness Commission: one of many initiatives aimed at adopting policies and successful schemes to give young people a quality education, provide further opportunity to get people into work and help reduce costs for local families.
“These include improving employment by providing over 600 apprenticeships and creating 300 new jobs locally, implementing a local Council Tax Benefit scheme, distributing grants to help young people with the cost of university through the Mayor’s Education Award, investing in new affordable homes with 4,000 set to be finalised next year, offering free school meals to every primary school student and implementing a policy that supports local, small businesses.”
The campaign aims to increase understanding of the causes of child poverty and ensure politicians are meeting the requirements of the Child Poverty Act.
Figures were collated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, which provides an annual evaluation of child poverty levels in each ward, local authority and parliamentary constituency in the UK.
Numbers are based on tax credit data, estimating the percentage of children falling below 60 per cent of the median income after housing costs.
The centre also used “national trends in worklessness” to approximate recent changes in the amount of children who are in poverty because their parents have become unemployed.
The latest figures indicate that the areas with the highest levels of child poverty in the UK, when ranked by local authority, include the Eastlondonlines boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney at 49 per cent and 41 per cent respectively.
Lewisham fares slightly better with a child poverty level of 34 per cent, placed 18th in the poverty tables. Croydon’s 30 per cent rate puts it outside the top 20 most deprived zones.
Tower Hamlets also faces a large proportion of unemployment, high crime levels and has one of the highest population densities in London, according to End Child Poverty.
Tower Hamlets Council acknowledged that the percentage of children in low-income households is a major problem, but said they are currently making “big strides towards reducing health and social inequality”.
But despite the council’s efforts, the borough’s child poverty levels have risen from 42 per cent in 2013.
This year’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, curated by the council, projected that the situation is likely to get worse rather than better.
It stated: “The extent of childhood poverty in the borough is the most important determinant that will affect the current and future health of children and young people. The likelihood is that this will be exacerbated by currently rising levels of unemployment in young people. This highlights the self-evident importance of sustaining family income, raising skills and creating opportunities for local employment.”
Tower Hamlets and Hackney also show worrying levels of child poverty when ranked by parliamentary constituency, rather than local authority.
In both Bethnal Green and Bow, and Poplar and Limehouse, almost 50 per cent of children live in poverty.
Hackney South and Shoreditch, and Hackney North and Stoke Newington are also in the top 20 most deprived constituencies.
Hackney Council has described the issue as a “complex challenge” which should be “considered in the context of other local strategies”.
The borough’s latest data shows that, in more than three-quarters of households where a child is in poverty, the parents are currently out of work.
The council’s last “State of the Borough” report explained: “One of the key means of alleviating child poverty is to improve the prospects of parents on low incomes to get and to sustain decent work.”
A spokesperson from Hackney Council said: “Child poverty is as a very real issue for many households across the country and these recent statistics highlight how this country is failing its children.”
“In Hackney, we know there are families struggling to feed, house and clothe their children and this is a situation that is preventable. The council is committed to ensuring its services are geared towards the children, young people and families who need them the most.”
David Holmes, chair of The Campaign to End Child Poverty, said: “These figures reveal just how widely and deeply child poverty reaches into our communities… Far too many children whose parents are struggling to make a living are suffering as a result and missing out on the essentials of a decent childhood that all young people should be entitled to. We can and must do better for our children.”
“Poverty ruins childhoods and reduces life chances. Failing to invest properly in children is a false economy: already child poverty costs the country £29 billion each year and in the long run taxpayers will foot an even higher bill for correcting the damage.”
“We are calling on politicians of all parties to urgently set out a clear roadmap towards ending child poverty which includes the additional actions needed and the measures by which progress will be tracked.”