Child Poverty, Inequality and Deprivation

Jonathan Richard Bradshaw, Sophie Wickham, Alexandros Alexiou, calum Webb

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report


Child poverty is a huge problem in the North of England. As we
start to emerge from the pandemic, the problem is accelerating,
and the gap between the North and South of the country is
From a high in the late 1990s, child poverty rates in the North
declined, falling faster than in the rest of the country. By 2008, the
North East and Yorkshire and Humber had rates close to or below
the UK average. But from 2014 child poverty in the North began to
rise again, and much faster in all the Northern regions than the UK
as a whole.
Now, in the North, nearly a third of children live in poverty. Nearly
60% of local authorities in the Northern regions have above
average levels of children in low-income families.
Austerity measures hit children in the North disproportionately, with
deeper cuts to children’s services in the North than the rest of the
The impact of Northern deprivation is writ large in the statistics.
Children under the age of one die at a higher rate in the North than
in the rest of England.
Child poverty has long-term effects on children’s development,
health and wellbeing and the anticipated pandemic-related
increase in child poverty is deeply worrying.
Regional inequalities in infant and child health were pervasive before
the pandemic, with children living in the North experiencing worse outcomes on a range of measures than those living elsewhere in England.
The Government’s lockdown response to COVID-19, aimed at reducing
the number of infections, hospital admissions and deaths, had unintended consequences, exacerbating health inequalities across the UK.
Studies have shown that financial and food insecurity and poor mental
health increased during this period, with one third of families saying
that they were worse off during the first lockdown.
The pandemic had a negative effect on new mothers in the UK. In the
Northern City of Bradford, new mothers reported feeling low (56%),
lonely (59%), irritable (62%), and worried (71%), during lockdown, considerably more than the 20% of new and expectant mothers who were
affected by poor mental health pre-pandemic. Figures are likely to be
worse in the North, which spent a month-and-a-half longer in lockdown
than the rest of England.
Over the course of the pandemic, take-up of early education programmes fell significantly across the country. Because these programmes are particularly beneficial to more deprived children, inequalities in development will increase, disproportionally affecting children in
the North of England.
The longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and policy response on maternal and child health and wellbeing need to be closely
monitored. Investment in the early years must be prioritised as we exit
the pandemic, with additional investment in priority areas and services.
n When the pandemic hit, 27% of children across the three
Northern regions were living in poverty before housing costs and
33% after housing costs, compared to just 20% before housing
costs and 30% after housing costs in the UK as a whole.
n Before housing costs, the North East has the highest child
poverty rate at 30% and Yorkshire and Humber the third highest,
after the West Midlands. After housing costs, the North East has
the second highest rate at 37%, after Inner London. This gap
between measures of child poverty before and after housing costs
illustrates the importance of housing costs for families’ livelihoods.
n In the North of England 58% of local authorities have above
average levels of children in low-income families compared to 19%
in the rest of England.
n Infant mortality is higher in the North of England than in the rest
of England, with 4.23 deaths per 1,000 live births compared to 3.95
per 1.000 live births in England as a whole, in the 2017-19 period.
n Between 2010 and 2018, local authority spending on Sure Start
Children’s Centres, per eligible child, was cut by 67% in the North,
compared to 63% in the rest of England. Starting from a higher
level of spending in the North due to higher need, this equates
to much larger cuts in absolute terms in the North: on average,
spending was cut by £412 per eligible child in the North, compared
to only £283 in the rest of England.
n Both relative and absolute poverty are expected to rise sharply
in the North in 2021/22. Illness due to COVID-19 and long COVID,
and job loss, are the primary causes of this projected increase.
n During the pandemic, by May 2020, the number of households
claiming Universal Credit jumped by more than 1 million to 4.2
million. By December 2020, nearly 6 million people were claiming,
twice the pre-pandemic figure.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages3
Publication statusPublished - 8 Dec 2021

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