Skip to main content
Access keys Home News Site map Site help Complaints Terms Contact us

Child Poverty

Summary

A child is said to be living in poverty if their household income is less than 60% of average income. Child poverty is a major source of inequalities which can persist throughout life.  By age five, children from the poorest fifth of homes in the UK are already on average nearly a year behind when measured by their expected years of development.

Children who grow up in poverty are four times as likely to become poor adults becoming the parents of the next generation of children living in poverty.  A child growing up in poverty also has a greater likelihood of experiencing health problems from birth and of accumulating physical and mental health problems throughout life.

There are more than 6,000 children living in poverty in South Gloucestershire, two thirds of whom live outside the priority neighbourhoods. South Gloucestershire has a lower percentage of children living in low income families (10.5%) than the South West (14.2%) or England (18.0%). Rates are highest in Patchway and Kings Chase with one in five children living in poverty.

Educational attainment is the most influential factor that increases the risk of a poor child becoming a poor adult. At GCSE level, education attainment in South Gloucestershire is poor. The gap in educational attainment between pupils receiving free school meals and other pupils is wider within South Gloucestershire than other areas and this gap widens as children get older.

Children in workless families are three times as likely to live in poverty compared to families where at least one parent works. South Gloucestershire has a lower rate of worklessness than the national average. However there is considerable variation in rates across South Gloucestershire. Two-thirds of adults claiming job seekers allowance live outside the priority neighbourhoods.

In South Gloucestershire, the proportion of residents employed in occupations which usually require a low level of education is higher than the national and sub-regional averages. This suggests that there may be a higher proportion of South Gloucestershire residents in low paid jobs than other areas.  South Gloucestershire has a lower proportion of parents with no qualifications than the national average. However, there is great variation within South Gloucestershire, with some areas having lower levels of parental qualifications than the national average including some areas outside the priority neighbourhoods.

Recommendations for consideration

Tackling the drivers of child poverty is complex and requires further co-ordinated action across South Gloucestershire Council and its partners. Key areas for further work include tackling the educational attainment gap between children from low-income families and others; increasing the proportion of pupils who remain in education and training post-16; identifying actions that can overcome barriers to employment e.g. low levels of qualifications among parents with dependent children; improving the health of parents with dependent children in areas where parental ill-health is highest; supporting families’ living standards and families who are living in poor housing or experiencing fuel or food poverty.

Author: Rachel Clark, Specialty Registrar in Public Health, South Gloucestershire Council

Who is at risk and why?

A child is said to be living in poverty if their household income is less than 60% of average income 1. Today in the UK 2.3 million children (17%) live in poverty 2. Child poverty is a major source of inequalities which can persist throughout life.  By age five, children from the poorest fifth of homes in the UK are already on average nearly a year behind when measured by their expected years of development 3. Children who grow up in poverty are four times as likely to become poor adults becoming the parents of the next generation of children living in poverty 1. A child growing up in poverty also has a greater likelihood of experiencing health problems from birth and of accumulating physical and mental health problems throughout life 4.

Tackling child poverty is a priority both locally and nationally. Locally South Gloucestershire’s Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2013 – 2016 identifies ‘Reducing Childhood Poverty’ as a key issue under its priority area of ‘Tackling Health Inequalities’. Nationally, the first Child Poverty Strategy was published in 2011. A second national strategy was published in 2014 1.

There is cross party support for tackling child poverty. Child poverty was identified as a priority in the manifestos of the Conservative 5, Labour 6 and Green 7 Parties. The Liberal Democrat manifesto doesn’t specifically refer to child poverty but identifies tackling poverty and fuel poverty (a key driver of child poverty) as priorities 8.

The national Child Poverty Strategy 2014 – 2017 was informed by a review of the evidence of the drivers of child poverty 9. The review looked at the available evidence on factors that make it harder for some families to get out of poverty and that make poor children more likely to become poor adults.

The review found that educational attainment is the most influential factor that increases the risk of a poor child becoming a poor adult, primarily through the influence on future employment outcomes and earnings. Pupils who achieve five A*-C grades at GCSE earn around 10% more than those who do not whilst pupils who achieve two or more A-levels earn around 14% more than those without. Children who leave school with few or no qualifications are far more likely to be unemployed in adulthood and, if they are able to find work, are far more likely to be in low-paid and insecure employment.

The review also found that the main factor affecting current child poverty is lack of sufficient income from parental employment, which restricts a household’s earnings 9. Lack of household income can be caused by:

  • Low parental qualifications which drive poverty because of their impact on employment opportunities and wage potential. National data shows that 20% of all individuals with no qualification are in persistent poverty compared with 9% of the population overall
  • Parental ill-health or family instability which can both reduce the number of parents whose earnings contribute to income, and may also mean the remaining parent is more restricted in terms of employment due to caring responsibilities
  • Long-term worklessness which can lead to increasing difficulties in returning to work, including skill loss, employer bias and changes in attitudes to work
  • Family size, with larger families requiring higher levels of income to avoid poverty. It can also restrict parental employment due to caring responsibilities
  • Parental drug and alcohol dependency. Although only a small number of children are affected, the effects for these parents and children are profound

The national Child Poverty Strategy also highlighted that some vulnerable groups are at greater risk of poverty. They are often small groups not captured in national or local measures that face specific challenges. Particular groups identified in the national Child Poverty Strategy include:

  • Looked after children
  • Children with a disabled parent;
  • Children in one parent families;

Children in large families (with three or more children)

[1] H M Government. Child Poverty Strategy 2014-17.; 2014.

[2] Department for Work and Pensions. Households Below Average Income. An Analysis of the Income Distribution 1994/95 –2013/14. Vol 2015. 2015.

[3] Economic and Social Research Council. Evidence Briefing: Child poverty casts a long shadow over social mobility. 2012.

[4] UCL. Fair Society, Healthy Lives: Strategic Review of Health Inequalities in England Post 2010 (Marmot Review). 2010.

[5] The Conservative Party. The Conservative Party Manifesto 2015. 2015.

[6] The Labour Party. The Labour Party Manifesto 2015. 2015.

[7] The Green Party. For The Common Good: General Election Manifesto 2015. 2015.

[8] Liberal Democrats. Manifesto 2015: Stronger Economy. Fairer Society. Opportunity for Everyone. 2015.

[9] H M Government. An Evidence Review of the Drivers of Child Poverty for Families in Poverty Now and for Poor Children Growing up to Be Poor Adults.; 2014. doi:10.1162/LEON_r_00797

Current services and assets in relation to need

Many of the drivers of child poverty are covered by existing workstreams and strategies within South Gloucestershire and there are a range of initiatives in place to support poor children and their families for example

  • South Gloucestershire Early Help Strategy
  • The Disadvantaged Pupils strategic plan 2015/2016
  • South Gloucestershire Skills and Employability Plan
  • Families in Focus (known nationally as the ‘Troubled Families’ initiative)
  • The ‘Warm and Well’ scheme
  • The South Gloucestershire Food Poverty Network
  • South Gloucestershire Welfare Advice Partnership

Further information on services and assets in relation to the drivers of child poverty can be found in the JSNA chapters on:

  • Education
  • Economy employability skills
  • Housing – strategic social private
  • Housing conditions: fuel poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Children with disability and special needs
  • Obesity, physical activity, nutrition
  • Adult substance misuse

The level of need in the population

There are more than 6,000 children in South Gloucestershire living in low income families.  This figure has remained fairly constant over the last eight years (table 1). South Gloucestershire has a lower percentage of children living in low income families (10.5%) 5 than the South West (14.2%) or England (18.0%).

Table 1: Children living in poverty South Gloucestershire 2006 – 2013[1]

Year Number Percentage
2006 6100 10.5
2007 6020 10.6
2008 6100 10.7
2009 6700 11.6
2010 6685 11.5
2011 6565 11.3
2012 6265 10.8
2013 6110 10.5

Source:  Department for Education – Child Poverty Basket of Local Indicators and HM Revenue & Customs Personal tax credits: Children in low-income families local measure 2013 snapshot as at 31 August 2013

Rates of child poverty within South Gloucestershire vary considerably (Figure 1). In the two wards with the highest levels of child poverty (Patchway and Kings Chase) one in five children live in poverty. In the two wards with the lowest levels of child poverty (Downend and Severn), fewer than 1 in 20 children live in poverty. However, there are children living in low-income families in all areas of South Gloucestershire.

Figure 1 – % of South Gloucestershire children in low incomes families by ward 2013

chart showing percentage of South Gloucestershire children in low incomes families by ward 2013

Source: HM Revenue & Customs Personal tax credits: Children in low-income families local measure. 2013 snapshot as at 31 August 2013

Reducing child poverty in South Gloucestershire means tackling the root causes of poverty. The national Child Poverty strategy identifies the key drivers of child poverty as worklessness; larger families; one-parent families; parental ill-health; low parental qualifications and children’s educational attainment.

Worklessness

South Gloucestershire has a lower rate of worklessness than the national average In May 2015 0.9% of the working age population in South Gloucestershire were claiming job seekers allowance, compared to 1.3% in the West of England as a whole and 1.7% in England. However there is considerable variation in rates across South Gloucestershire. Two-thirds of adults claiming job seekers allowance live outside the priority neighbourhoods.

Further information on the level of need in relation to worklessness and adult qualifications can be found in the JSNA chapters on Economy employability and skills.

Family size

The national Child Poverty Strategy and accompanying evidence review concluded that it is harder for one-parent families to move out of poverty as they only have one potential earner in the household and less ability to share childcare responsibilities 1 9. Large families are also at greater risk of being in poverty as they can face significant barriers to work such as greater childcare responsibilities.

Self-reported information on family size is collected in the census.   Analysis of data from the 2011 census found that:

  • 23% of families in South Gloucestershire with dependent children have only one parent, which is lower than the England rate of 29%
  • 14% of families who have dependent children in South Gloucestershire have more than three dependent children which is slightly lower than the England rate of 16%.
  • the percentage of lone parents with three or more children in South Gloucestershire is 12%, which is slightly below the England rate of 14%.

However, there are variations in rates of large or one-parent families within South Gloucestershire with some wards higher than the local and national rates.

Parental ill health

Poor parental health limits the ability of parents to work and therefore can be a contributory factor to low income and child poverty. Children in families with a disabled adult are over a third more likely to be in poverty than children in families with no disabled adult (22% compared to 16%)1. Children with caring responsibilities for their parents or whose parents have mental health or substance misuse issues are at a greater risk of lower educational attainment and poorer employment outcomes 1.

Adults in South Gloucestershire are generally healthy and have better health than adults nationally10.  Key information on the health of adults in South Gloucestershire is contained in a number of existing documents[2] and there are a range of workstreams looking at adult health.

Further information on need in relation the health of the adult population can be found in the Adult section of the JSNA.

Educational attainment

Educational attainment is the most influential factor that increases the risk of a poor child becoming a poor adult.  Whilst South Gloucestershire pupils generally do well in the earlier stages of education, performance deteriorates between key stages 2 and 4. Overall, 53% of all South Gloucestershire pupils achieve 5 or more GCSE grades A* – C (including English and maths) which is lower than the England average of 57% and places South Gloucestershire in the bottom quartile nationally11.

Furthermore poor children in South Gloucestershire have lower levels of attainment than other children at all stages of education.  The gap between the attainment of poor pupils and other pupils in South Gloucestershire starts at the early years stage where there is a 23 percentage point difference in children achieving a ‘good level of development’ between pupils in receipt of free school meals (an indicator of low income) and other pupils.  This gap persists at all stages and increases as children progress through school. At key stage 4 only 25% of South Gloucestershire pupils on free school meals achieved 5 or more GCSEs grades A*-C (including English and maths) in 2014/15 compared to 53% of other pupils, a gap of 28 percentage points. At each stage of education, the gap in attainment between poor pupils and other pupils is wider within South Gloucestershire than within the South West and England as a whole.

Further information on educational attainment can be found in the JSNA chapter on Education.

Supporting low income families’ living standards

The impact of low income is that families may not able to afford basic living costs such as housing, fuel and food and ‘supporting families living standards’ is a key element of the national Child Poverty Strategy. Further information on levels of need in relation to these issues can be found in the JSNA chapters on:

  • Obesity, nutrition and physical activity
  • Housing – strategic social private
  • Housing conditions: fuel poverty
  • Homelessness

[1] Defined as the number of children living in families in receipt of child tax credit whose reported income is less than 60 per cent of the median income or in receipt of IS or (Income-Based) JSA, divided by the total number of children in the area (determined by Child Benefit data)

[2] For example South Gloucestershire Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, South Gloucestershire Health Profile, South Gloucestershire Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy, Director of Public Health Report, Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment, Substance Misuse needs assessment, Mental health needs assessment

Projected service use and outcomes in first 5 years and 5-10 years

There are more than 6,000 children in South Gloucestershire living in low income families. This figure has remained fairly constant over the last eight years.

Despite its high priority, reducing child poverty remain a challenge. In 2014, the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission (an advisory non-departmental public body established under the Child Poverty Act 2010 with a remit to monitor progress in tackling child poverty and social mobility) published ‘The State of the Nation 2014: Social Mobility and Child Poverty in Great Britain’ 12. This report concluded that “even world beating performance on employment levels, hours and wages won’t enable child poverty targets to be hit”. In relation to the most recently published child poverty figures which relate to 2012, the report commented that “This is the most recent data that can be reported and does not yet reflect many of the changes to the benefits and tax credit entitlements of low-income working and workless households, many of which were introduced in April 2013 or afterwards. As a result the latest data is likely to understate current levels of child poverty”.

Evidence of what works

Tackling the drivers of child poverty is complex and requires coordinated action at both national and local level. There is no single source of evidence or good practice.  However, key points from a range of documents are:

  • Early learning can help all children’s development but poor children benefit the most from attending a high quality pre-school 1
  • Good-quality early childhood education and care has positive short-term and, possibly, longer term, educational effects for poor children. Children’s centres, in close partnership with local authorities, can play a key role in brokering access for poor children to quality early childhood education and care, coupled with other family support provision 1
  • Employment is fundamental to tackling poverty, however, employment growth is not always associated with poverty reduction, because the jobs created may not go to households in poverty. A range of strategies can be effective in promoting earnings improvements, including financial incentives to encourage retention, placing individuals in better quality jobs, and improving skills
  • There is a need for measures to help low-income households manage drops in income and peaks in expenditure and strengthen their resilience. Measures that could help poor families manage these include access to debt advice that is free and impartial and free at the point of use. This was found to maximise income and reduce the amount owed to creditors.

Further information on what works in tackling the drivers of child poverty can be found in JSNA chapters on:

  • Education
  • Economy employability skills
  • Housing – strategic social private
  • Housing conditions: fuel poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Children with disability and special needs
  • Obesity, physical activity, nutrition
  • Adult substance misuse

[1] Joseph Rowntree Foundation. REDUCING POVERTY IN THE UK : A COLLECTION OF EVIDENCE REVIEWS. 2014;(August). https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/reducing-poverty-uk-collection-evidence-reviews

User views (on need, services / assets and gaps)

Consultation is taking place on the recently completed South Gloucestershire Child Poverty Needs Assessment and the views of a range of stakeholders who work with families in poverty will be included.

Equalities

The information presented within this chapter provides evidence of needs in respect of diverse groups.  Consideration of these needs has resulted in the identification of priority issues to be addressed within South Gloucestershire as follows:-

  • An equalities impact assessment will be carried out as part of the strategic implementation plan informed by the Child Poverty Needs Assessment.

Unmet needs and service gaps

The recent South Gloucestershire Child Poverty Needs Assessment identified a range of unmet needs:

  • There are more than 6,000 children living in poverty throughout South Gloucestershire. Two-thirds of children living in poverty in South Gloucestershire live outside the priority neighbourhoods.
  • Educational attainment is the most influential factor that increases the risk of a poor child becoming a poor adult. Whilst South Gloucestershire pupils generally do well in the earlier stages of education, performance deteriorates between key stages 2 and 4. The current performance for KS4 (all pupils) places South Gloucestershire in the bottom quartile nationally.
  • The gap in educational attainment between pupils receiving free school meals (an indicator of low income) and other pupils is wider within South Gloucestershire than within other areas and this gap widens as children get older.
  • Children in workless families are three times as likely to be in relative poverty compared to families where at least one parent works. South Gloucestershire has a lower rate of worklessness than the national average. However there is considerable variation in rates across South Gloucestershire. Two-thirds of adults claiming job seekers allowance live outside the priority neighbourhoods.
  • Nationally, around two-thirds of poor children are in families with at least one adult who is working, suggesting that a combination of low hours and low pay plays a key part in determining poverty. In South Gloucestershire, the proportion of residents employed in occupations which usually require a low level of education is higher than the national and sub-regional averages. This suggests that there may be a higher proportion of South Gloucestershire residents in low paid jobs than other areas.
  • South Gloucestershire has a lower proportion of parents with no qualifications than the national average. However, there is great variation within South Gloucestershire, with some areas having lower levels of parental qualifications than the national average including some areas outside the priority neighbourhoods.

Recommendations for consideration by commissioners

Tackling the drivers of child poverty is complex and requires coordinated action across South Gloucestershire Council and its partners. Key areas for further work to reduce levels of child poverty within South Gloucestershire include:

  • Tackling the educational attainment gap between children from low-income families and others whilst aiming to raise attainment across the board, particularly at key stage 4
  • Increasing the proportion of pupils who remain in education or training post-16
  • Identifying actions that can overcome barriers to employment such as a low levels of qualifications amongst parents with dependent children
  • Improving the health of parents with dependent children in areas where parental ill-health is highest
  • Supporting families’ living standards by helping low-income families maximise their income
  • Supporting families who are in poor housing or experiencing fuel or food poverty

Many of the key issues identified relation to child poverty are covered by existing workstreams and strategies within South Gloucestershire.

Recommendations for needs assessment work

A South Gloucestershire child poverty needs assessment was carried out in 2014/15.