I WROTE a letter to The Yorkshire Post in October 2020 to discuss the estimated child poverty figures released by the End Child Poverty Coalition, and the power of Marcus Rashford’s activism around free school meals.
Nationally, the latest numbers represent a fall on the previous year, with 27 per cent of children in poverty in 2020/21, down from 31 per cent in 2019/20. As charities, think-tanks and academics have already begun pointing out, this fall is largely due to the £20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits, which has since been curtailed, reducing the poorest families’ budgets by over £1,000 a year.
Alas, the story has not been so positive for our region, with 34 per cent of children across our region living in poverty in 2020/21; these numbers are set against a backdrop of increases in child poverty across most local authorities within our region in recent years.
Bradford – my home city – had, as your recent article recognises, the highest rate of child poverty in the region, with a staggering four in ten children in Bradford living in poverty in 2020/21; this was also the 12th highest rate in the country in 2020/21.
It must also be noted that, between 2014/15 and 2020/21, Bradford experienced the largest increase in child poverty rates in our region, with one in ten more children living in poverty in 2020/21 than in 2014/15.
If we take a closer look at Bradford, we see a place – and indeed a population – challenged by persistently low wages, poor educational attainment and consistently high levels of both poverty and social security benefit uptake.
Alarmingly, children in two Bradford constituencies were amongst the ten poorest in the country in 2020/21, with half of all children in Bradford West (51.2 per cent) and Bradford East (50.1 per cent) living in poverty.
In political and media discourse around poverty, paid work is often cited as the best route out of poverty, but as was mentioned above, the recent fall in child poverty nationally is largely due to the since-removed £20 uplift to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits, with broader social security benefits also integral to the ability of those on low incomes to build financial resilience.
The next Prime Minister must open their eyes to the opportunities that are presented by the people and places of Bradford and prove their commitment to truly levelling up and changing lives by investing in infrastructure and a strong social security system to allow people to thrive in their everyday lives.