118,000 North East children are living in poverty, new report says

Child poverty in the North East
-Credit: (Image: Kate Stanworth / Save The Children)


All of the main political parties have been urged to commit to “systemic changes” to help families after new analysis suggested that at least a quarter of children are living in poverty in almost all areas of the North East.

The annual report by the End Child Poverty Coalition has found that more than 118,000 children are living in poverty in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham. The highest rate of poverty was seen in Newcastle, where more than a third (33.8%) of children are growing up poor.

But the child poverty rate was more than a quarter in every council area other than North Tyneside, where it stood at 24.5%, and in 18 of the region’s 20 new parliamentary constituencies. The report also found that rates of child poverty had increased in every area of the North East between 2015 and 2022 except for Northumberland, where there was a small decrease.

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Researchers at Loughborough University said that local levels of child poverty are “directly and strongly correlated with the percentage of children affected by the two-child limit in that local area”, arguing that this provides “further evidence that the policy is a key driver of child poverty”.

The two-child limit, introduced under the Conservative Government in 2017 and restricting Child Tax Credit and Universal Credit to the first two children in most households, is a policy charities and campaigners have repeatedly said should be scrapped. Both Labour and the Conservatives are committed to keeping the limit.

The report says: “The analysis presented also provides further evidence that policies, such as the two-child limit, are having a devastating impact on the living standards of low-income families. Many families affected are in work, with no straightforward way to increase their income, and children in lone parent families are especially vulnerable."

Official statistics released earlier this year showed the estimated total number of people in relative low income in the UK was at 14.35m in the year to March 2023, with some 4.33m of those being children. The latest figure for children was the highest since comparable records for the UK began in 2002/03 and prompted campaigners at the time to say young people are being failed and forgotten. A household is considered to be in relative poverty if it is below 60% of the median income after housing costs.

The new report highlights child poverty levels in council areas, existing parliamentary constituencies and new parliamentary constituencies. The Newcastle Central constituency has the highest current rate of child poverty in the region at 40.6% while the lowest is Hexham (17.2%).

Beth Farhat, incoming chair of the North East Child Poverty Commission, said: "This research really does lay bare the scale of disadvantage for children growing up in the North East, and emphasises why tackling child poverty has to be a top priority for every single candidate standing for election right across our region. No one should accept the life chances and opportunities of tens of thousands of children throughout the North East being restricted by poverty – nor the unsustainable pressures that rising levels of hardship have placed on public and voluntary sector organisations across our region – not least when we know that this can change with political will, and the right policies and investment, in place.

"Whoever forms the next Government must therefore make ending child poverty a top – and ongoing – priority too. This means all political parties committing to introduce a clear and evidence-led strategy to tackle child poverty, an immediate focus of which must be to end the two-child limit."

On a visit to Northumberland at the weekend, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was “proud” of his party’s record on child poverty, and that rates have come down nationally.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer faced heavy criticism last year when he said his party would keep the two-child benefit cap. Last month, he said he would scrap the cap “in an ideal world” but added that “we haven’t got the resources to do it at the moment”.

A Labour spokesman said: “118,000 children in the North East living in child poverty is the devastating consequence of 14 years of Tory failure. Families across the country are being pushed into poverty by a Government that has crashed the economy and unleashed a cost of living crisis. Under the Tories we live in a society that now has more food banks than police stations.

“The last Labour Government lifted two million children and pensioners out of poverty.”

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “The Conservative Government have lifted 1.1m people out of absolute poverty since 2010, including 100,000 children, and our unprecedented cost of living support prevented millions from falling into absolute poverty. We know work is the best route out of poverty, and thanks to our actions, there are more people in work in the North East than when we entered office, wages have risen faster than prices for the past ten consecutive months, and the National Living Wage we introduced has been boosted to record levels, benefiting workers in the North East on the NLW by an average £1,800 this year alone.”

The Conservative Party has been contacted for comment.