‘Urgent focus needed’: Highest rates of child poverty recorded in Birmingham

Thousands of children are living in poverty in Birmingham - going to bed hungry in cold homes
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Two in five children in Birmingham were living in poverty last year, new figures show.

Children’s charity Barnardo’s said youngsters “can’t be happy and healthy if they are going to bed in a cold home, on an empty stomach”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show 104,433 Birmingham children aged under 16 were living in relative poverty in the year to March 2023.

It meant 40.8% of children in the area were in a family whose income was below 60% of average household income before housing costs. They also claimed child benefit and at least one other household benefit. This was up from 38.8% the year before and the highest rate since comparable records began in 2014-15.

Of all the children facing poverty in Birmingham, 25,662 were below school age. Lynn Perry MBE, CEO of Barnardo’s, said: “Living in poverty means children miss out on opportunities and the activities that make childhood fun and support their development.

“The Government needs to urgently focus on reducing child poverty. That should start with a strategy for ending child poverty, including ending the two-child limit ‘sibling penalty’ on benefit payments and ensuring struggling families can afford essentials like food and household bills.”

Highest rates of child poverty recorded in BirminghamHighest rates of child poverty recorded in Birmingham
Highest rates of child poverty recorded in Birmingham
Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Children’s commissioner for England Dame Rachel de Souza said she was “horrified” by the figures and called for welfare reform, including auto-enrolment for free school meals and more free breakfast clubs.

She said: “We need to go much further, faster to support these families, because no child should grow up in poverty in the sixth richest country in the world.”

How do the child poverty rates in Birmingham compare to the West Midlands and UK?

Overall, there were 329,894 children experiencing poverty across the West Midlands last year, who accounted for 28.4% of all children in the region.

Across the UK, there were 2.5 million children living in low-income families before housing costs. However, the number hit a record high and was nearly double after housing costs were considered, with 4.3 million children in relative poverty.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: “In a general election year, nothing should be more important to our political leaders than making things better for the country’s poorest kids.

“We know that change is possible, but we need to see a commitment from all parties to scrap the two-child limit and increase child benefits. Anything less would be a betrayal of Britain’s children.”

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Mel Stride said: “I know the last few years have been tough, with the aftershocks of Covid and the war of Ukraine driving up inflation and cost of living pressures.

“That’s exactly why we stepped in with the biggest cost of living package in Europe, worth an average of £3,800 per household, and this unprecedented support prevented 1.3 million people from falling into poverty in 2022-23.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“We’re also going further in April, by uprating benefits and pensions to support millions of people on the lowest incomes and extending the Household Support Fund to provide vital support for those most in need.”

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.