More than 25,500 children live in poverty in Leicester – and the extended lockdown will exacerbate the suffering of thousands of families in the city, a leading charity has warned.
The city council reported 944 positive tests in the two weeks to 23 June – about one in 16 of the total UK cases during that period – while hospital admissions for coronavirus have crept up to between six and 10 a day.
Amid the government’s decision to place Leicester back into lockdown, with all schools and nonessential shops closed, concern has been raised over the continuing struggles of the city’s poorest children.
Leicester is among the top 20 per cent most deprived areas of the country, and children in the city are over four times more likely to be living in poverty than those in wealthier areas of England.
More than a quarter of children in Leicester (27 per cent) live in poverty before housing costs are taken into account.
Save the Children has warned that without urgent intervention, the high level of child poverty could rise, pushing families even further below the breadline.
Recent research by the charity, alongside the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, found that families on universal credit and child tax credit are struggling to afford food and basic utilities, such as gas and electricity, with two thirds sliding into debt since the start of lockdown.
With the lockdown measures extended in Leicester, families on low incomes will be forced to struggle for even longer.
Save the Children has called for a £20-a-week increase to the child element of universal credit and child tax credit to help the poorest families. Those on universal credit currently receive £235.83 per child per month.
Becca Lyon, head of UK poverty campaigns at Save the Children, said: “Life in lockdown has already been extremely tough for families and their children, and it’s not right that it is the poorest who are being hit hardest.
“Further local lockdowns mean families face several more weeks of being unable to go to work or send their children to school, resulting in even more time without an income. We need urgent action to support struggling families – a £20 a week increase will give families with children the lifeline they need to pull them through these difficult times.
“By taking action now, we can prevent increased child poverty from becoming a damaging legacy of this pandemic, which has already caused too much suffering.”
Other cities and towns said to be at risk of local lockdowns include Bradford, Barnsley, Rochdale and Oldham, all of which have some of the highest rates of deprivation in England.
More than 100,000 children in these areas are already living in poverty and could be at even greater risk if lockdowns are extended, Save the Children added.
Research by Loughborough University, published earlier in the year, showed that child poverty in the UK has increased by 2.8 per cent in the last four years.
Experts involved in the study warned that this figure will grow for the entire country as a result of the pandemic.