It’s hard to believe that there are four million children living in poverty in the UK today

young girl standing in hallway looking at dad with papers

Child poverty in the UK is a huge, and growing, problem. It harms children’s health and damages their futures. It also damages our society as a whole.

How many children are currently living in poverty in the UK?

Four million. Almost a third of children in the UK live in poverty – that’s around nine in the average classroom.

The situation is getting worse, with the number set to rise to five million by 2020.

Shockingly, two thirds of children living in poverty have at least one parent in work.

Thousands more families are living on the cusp of the poverty line. One unexpected setback - like redundancy or illness - could push them into the poverty trap.

The reality of living in poverty

A couple with two children living in poverty has less than £58 per day – that’s £15 each - after housing costs to pay for food, bills, childcare, transport, household items, clothes and other expenses like school trips or children’s activities.

The same family on average income in the UK has about £96 per day – that’s £24 each - to cover these things.

How is child poverty measured?

A child is said to be living in poverty when they are living in a family with an income below 60% of the UK's average after adjusting for family size.

How does poverty affect children?

Growing up in poverty can damage children’s well-being and their future life chances.

Children living in poverty are more likely to:

  • Have poor physical health
  • Experience mental health problems
  • Have low sense of well-being 
  • Underachieve at school
  • Have employment difficulties in adult life
  • Experience social deprivation
  • Feel unsafe
  • Experience stigma and bullying at school.

Find out more about the effects of poverty on children.

Why is child poverty on the rise in the UK?

Rising living costs, low wages and cuts to benefits are creating a perfect storm in which more children are falling into the poverty trap.

Living costs

Many families are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living. The prices of essentials like food and fuel are going up and this hits Britain’s poorest families hardest.

We know that parents are skipping meals so they can afford to feed their children, and in winter many families are forced to make the impossible choice of feeding their children or heating their homes.

Low pay

Low wages make it difficult for families to escape poverty. And it’s even harder when at the same time the prices of everyday essentials like food and fuel are rising.

Almost two thirds of children living in poverty have at least one parent in work. This shows that, for many, work simply isn’t paying enough for parents to provide for their children.

Benefit cuts

Cuts to benefits – and to public services that children from disadvantaged backgrounds rely on most - are having a massive impact on families and children in poverty, and are likely to significantly increase the number of children in poverty.

We’re really concerned about the links between poverty and mental health problems – and that cuts to support for low income families could impact the mental health and well-being of children across the UK.

How we can end child poverty in the UK

Child poverty is expected to rise significantly in this country. It doesn't need to be this way. In the UK we've had lower levels of child poverty in the past, and other countries similar to ours have less child poverty now. We need a commitment across society to tackle it.

We need to make sure that the Government is concerned about child poverty and is finding ways to prevent and reduce it. Better housing, better pay and better welfare support are crucial. In particular, we're calling on the Government to urgently reconsider the scale of cuts affecting children’s social care services and the social security safety net,  to prevent more children and young people being pushed into poverty.