Adam Ratliff: 4 minute read

Child Poverty in the United Kingdom

Poverty is something that has followed society around for years. With the arrival of the global pandemic known as COVID-19, the situation has moved from bad to worse. We are now living in a country that many believe is equivalent to that which was seen in the 1900s, with regards to poverty.

Before the pandemic, the poverty figure sat at 4.3 million or one-third of the children in the United Kingdom. Post outbreak that number now sits around 4.5 million, as an additional 120,000 children were plunged into poverty due to the outbreak. If you take the figure from across the world then we see an even bigger crisis looming, with an additional 1.5 million children placed into poverty.

The problem is clear. Child poverty stretches across the globe and in 2021 it is something that we should be working to reverse. More than 1.2 billion children live in multidimensional poverty and we want to do our part as an organisation to help raise awareness.

A Historical Perspective

One of the most shocking revelations with the increase in child poverty today is not that it is a turning point, it is more that it is a repeat of history. In the early 1900s the causes of poverty were much the same as they are today. Surveys taken across the country at the start of the 20th century showcased that the greatest cause of poverty was not what commonly believed.

‘Booth and Rowntree found the greatest cause of poverty was not, as often believed, feckless shirking by the irresponsible lower classes, but low pay for full-time work, or inability to get regular work despite best efforts.’
How poverty in modern Britain echoes the past, The British Academy

This poverty and the revelation of which caused a ripple in society. It led to what we now commonly referred to as the ‘Welfare State’. Free School Meals (1906), old-age pensions (1908), and National Health and Unemployment insurance (1911), were all introduced at the turn of the century in response to this revelation of poverty.

The Welfare State

The Welfare State was introduced more than a century ago, yet from a historical comparison, nothing has changed. Children are still living in poverty. Society is able to claw back some of the statistics but as soon as a large scale event such as a global recession or pandemic arrives, the situation goes right back to where it began. The pessimist here would say that the last 100 years has merely provided the situation with sticking plasters.

The optimist would reply to say that the welfare state worked. After the second world war, the Labour Government reduced poverty and inequality. By the 1970s the gap between rich and poor was at its lowest when benefits reached their peak. Here affordable housing was easy to come by and there was no evidence of a shortage in availability. Then the Thatcher government arrived.

By 1979, 13% of children were in poverty. By 1990 this figure increased to 22% and then declined under New Labour to pre-1979 figures, before steadily rising from 2010 onwards. The message looking back is clear. Under Labour governments, the welfare state has flourished and people have been able to live their best lives. Under the Conservative Government, continual cuts have been made to the point where poverty is at a similar level to what it was 100 years ago.

Is it about time that we concluded that divided party politics is regressive and not progressive?

Racial Inequality

  • 45% of children living in minority ethnic families are in poverty
  • 50% of people of Bangladeshi origin are living in poverty
  • People living in the most deprived 10% of society will die nine years earlier than those from the wealthiest 10%.

Source: Child Poverty Action Group

You do not need an article to tell you that all types of inequality are here. Society is divided and whilst there are those who work to make the world a better place, differences remain. We should all have the chance to live the best life possible. To be able to flourish and grow, to see our children develop and have every opportunity available to them.

Food is a basic human need and to have regressed so far to the point where we need more and more food banks is sad. Sad in the sense that we should never have let the problem reach this level. Yes, you should be able to enjoy the fruits of your labour but if around you there are those struggling to eat even one meal a day, then something is wrong.

Do you need that new television more than the family two roads away needs a square meal? This is not a question to be answered here, it is an opportunity to ponder the consideration that we all have a part to play.

What can we do?

There are many considerations that we could include here. We could suggest making donations to local food banks, and wider than that, charities that advocate for families such as The Child Action Poverty Group. We could recommend fundraising ideas that you could take part in such as a sponsored gaming session with your friends, a sponsored juggle or even a fancy dress walk. There are many ideas but that is for you to decide.

What I am here today to do is share what OLM is doing. In the run-up to our 30th-year celebration as an organisation, we are walking around the United Kingdom as a team. We are passing customers on the route and sharing the work in which we have completed, but more than this, we are raising awareness of child and food poverty.

We are raising awareness of the Child Action Poverty Group through fundraising. Over the course of the next week, we will be dedicating our focus to raising awareness and vital funds for the cause. In addition to this, we have and will continue to donate to local food banks and organisations that are making a difference.

We are doing what we can to raise awareness of the problem and share with the world why child and food poverty is something that should be left in the past.