CPAG explore the growing depth of child poverty
The Child Poverty Action Group have published a new report, DRAGGED DEEPER: How families are falling further and further below the poverty line, which examines not only ‘the rate of poverty but also the depth of poverty’.
The report begins:
‘If everyone in poverty is very close to the poverty line we should perhaps worry less than when millions of people are substantially below the poverty line.’
Its author, Tom Lee, puts forward a good measure for the depth of poverty: ‘the median poverty gap, which indicates how far below the poverty line the average family in poverty is’. He goes on to say that ‘families already living under the poverty line have been pushed deeper into poverty’. Figures show that from 2012/13 to 2017/18, the median poverty gap after housing costs rose by 30 per cent, meaning that ‘poor families are now on average £73 a week (28%) below the poverty line, up from £56 in 2012/13’.
Lee examines how family type – whether there is a couple or lone parent and whether or not they are in work – affects poverty. He finds that ‘nearly 3 million children are in poverty, where the parents are in some form of work’. For households where ‘all the parent(s) work full time – be they single or couple-parents’, the number of children in poverty has doubled from 200,000 in 2012/13 to 400,000 in 2017/18. He argues that while the ‘government’s policy of promoting work may have reduced the unemployment rate’ the current social security system means it has not reduced child poverty. While the poverty gap is ‘consistently higher for couples’, the poverty gap for lone parents has risen by 36 per cent since 2013. Lee points to the successive benefit cuts since 2013 and the fact that ‘lone parents get a higher share of their income from benefits’.
The report also explores the relationship between the poverty gap and poverty rates. Ordinarily, as poverty rates grow, the poverty gap shrinks, as people who have just moved into poverty are likely to have incomes relatively close to the poverty line. As Lee states, it is
‘especially telling that since 2012/13, both the poverty rate and poverty gap have risen. This indicates that over the past five years more children have been pushed into poverty, while those in poverty are further away from escaping poverty.’
Read the full report here.