|Child poverty figures drop, but remain above 2 million|
|Written by guardian.co.uk|
|Thursday, 14 June 2012|
• 18% of children live in households earning £251 or less a week
• Number rises to 3.6 million when housing costs included
• Campaigners warn of future rises as government cuts kick in
• Separate figures show leap in homelessness
The number of children living below the poverty line in the UK has fallen slightly, but the figure remains stubbornly above 2 million, official figures show.
Eighteen percent of children are living in households in the UK with incomes of less than 60% of the median average in 2010-11, equating to 2.3 million children, according to figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions on Thursday. When housing costs are taken into account, this share rises to 27%, or 3.6 million children.
The figures show 300,000 fewer children are living in poverty than a year ago, or 200,000 fewer after housing costs are taken into account.
Both measures are 2% below the figures for 2009-10, but they show the government has some way to go to meet a Labour target, enshrined in law, to eliminate child poverty by 2020. The figures fall short of a pledge by Labour a decade ago, when 3.4 million children were living in poverty, to halve child poverty by 2010-11.
Compared with 1998-99, the number of children living in poverty is 1.1 million lower before housing costs, and 900,000 after housing costs are taken into account.
Justin Forsyth, Save the Children's chief executive, said: "The reality is that there are 3.6 million children growing up in poverty in the UK, children without a winter coat or going to bed hungry, and this number is set to grow.
"The government needs to focus not on changing definitions but on policies that work, like the living wage, affordable childcare and on early education programmes targeted at low-income families that allow children to get the very most out of school."
Matthew Reed, the chief executive of the Children's Society, said the figures showed that action since 2000 pulled 1.1 million children out of poverty.
However, he added: "It is shameful that over the coming decade this progress is likely to be reversed by the government's drastic cuts to support and services for the country's most vulnerable children and families. Child poverty is a scar on our national conscience."
On the same day figures released by the Department for Communities and Local Government showed a sharp spike in homeless households. Local council data showed 50,290 households were accepted as homeless and in priority need, a 14% increase on 2010/11 and a 26% rise since 2009/10.
Almost two thirds of these households have dependent children, the highest proportion since the statistics began in 1998. The figures also show the most vulnerable being hit hardest with the number of homeless lone parents up from 21,870 in 2011 to 25,620 this year.
Duncan Shrubsole, the director of policy at Crisis, said: "This further rise in homelessness is yet another sign of the housing crisis we face. We are building just a tiny fraction of the new homes we need while government cuts to housing benefit are hitting households across the country making it harder to rehouse those who are already homeless. We need real action now – we need a housing policy revolution."
The number of working-age adults living in poverty has risen since 1998-99, although the figures have fallen back slightly on the previous year.
Some 5.5 million working-age adults, or 15%, are living in poverty, rising to 7.8 million, or 21%, after housing costs. These figures are a rise of half a million before housing costs, and 1.1 million after housing costs, compared to 1998-99.
Across the whole population, 9.8 million people, or 16%, are living in households with incomes below the poverty line in 2010-11, rising to 21%, or 13 million people, after housing costs. This is a fall of around half a million people on both measures compared with a year earlier.
The level of income which defines someone living in poverty was set as £251 a week.
The study also found that 2 million pensioners, or 17%, are living in poverty before housing costs, a drop of 1% from the previous year and 9%, or 700,000, from 1998-99.