This figure would double the 2.3m children currently classed as living in poverty, under the official measure of having a household income less than 60 per cent the median average.
The report from think-tank Policy Exchange says that the existing financial threshold fails to take into account the impact on a child’s life of issues like quality of housing, educational standards and whether he or she has been in the care system.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith is already consulting on a new measure of child poverty, to end the exclusive focus on income levels and reflect other aspects of what it means to grow up experiencing deep disadvantage.
Policy Exchange head of economics and social policy Matthew Oakley said the new measure should include factors including whether children are themselves parents; whether they live in temporary or poor-quality accommodation; if the family has unsustainable debts; and if the child has been taken into care, has criminal convictions or low educational attainment.
Today’s report recommended the introduction of a new Child Poverty Bill to replace the Child Poverty Act 2010, which commits the Government to ending child poverty. The new bill would measure social poverty as well as household income.
“The current measure of child poverty needs changing,” said Mr Oakley. “Simply assessing whether a child is in poverty on the basis of household income fails to take into consideration a number of serious issues. It leads us to think we are improving outcomes for children when in fact they can still be living severely deprived lives.”