Almost 50,000 children living in poverty in Tees Valley, new report says

Child poverty in our region has risen
-Credit: (Image: Copyright Unknown)

Politicians have been urged to prioritise the reduction of child poverty after new figures showed that almost 50,000 children in the Tees Valley are growing up poor.

The annual report by the End Child Poverty Coalition has found that more than 48,648 children are living in poverty in Teesside, Hartlepool and Darlington. The highest rate of poverty was seen in Middlesbrough, where almost half (46.6%) of children are in poverty.

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”.

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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 the North East 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”.