Bradford deserves betters when it comes to child poverty - Yorkshire Post Letters
I have written to you previously about child poverty in my home city of Bradford, but writing this letter feels particularly urgent in comparison to prior ones, given the broader socio-economic context in which we find ourselves, with the country engulfed in an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis, and more and more families and individuals struggling to make ends meet as wages fail to keep pace with rising costs.
Recent analysis by the End Child Poverty Coalition has found that 1 in 10 children are living in poverty in Bradford, the highest rate in the Yorkshire and Humber region, and the 24th highest rate of all local authorities across the whole of the United Kingdom.
During the period covered by the data (between 2014/15 and 2021/22), the Bradford district experienced an increase of over 9 per cent in its child poverty rate, by far the highest increase across the region, with the next highest increase being Kingston Upon Hull, which had an increase of 5 per cent in its child poverty rate in the period covered, and the second highest child poverty rate in 2021/22 (35.2 per cent).
The issue of child poverty has been thrust further into the public eye by the recent announcement from the leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, that he does not see ending the two-child limit - which limits the payment of Universal Credit and Tax Credits for parents who have more than two children – as something a likely incoming Labour government would look to do with any sense of urgency.
This announcement then was swiftly - and alarmingly - followed up with a doubling-down on the position, underpinned by an insistence of credibility on the economy, comparing the potential removal of the limit - a decision that the Child Poverty Action Group has estimated would lift a 250,000 children out of poverty (and loosen its grip on the lives of another 850,000 children) to the calamitous budget of Liz Truss’s government last autumn - a comparison which is, at best, bad politics seeking to feign fiscal prudence, and at worst, a disingenuous false equivalence which will inevitably feed into negative narratives around ‘benefit scroungers’ being to blame for every social problem under the sun.
Research published recently by academics at the universities of York and Oxford and the London School of Economics highlighted the impacts of reduced incomes due to the policy, felt throughout family units, with parents skipping meals for the sake of their children, and both children and their parents experiencing worsening mental health.
Families in Bradford have long been at the sharpest end of welfare reforms.
I want to finish this letter by making a call to action.
Families and individuals, in Bradford and across the UK, deserve far better than what is currently on offer from our political class, and lives free from poverty and financial difficulty; they - we - are not asking for much.
The late, great anthropologist David Graeber sums up that crux of my argument well: “the … world … is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.”