Child poverty rates in the heart of East London have risen sharply to above 50% in the past two years according to new figures published by the End Child Poverty coalition, with other parts of the capital not far behind.
The situation is worst of all in the parliamentary constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, where an estimated 54.2% of children live in households with incomes below the official poverty line, followed by its fellow Tower Hamlets seat of Poplar and Limehouse, where the rate is put at 52.8%.
The figures represent an 10 percentage point increase in Tower Hamlets as a whole since the End Child Poverty last compiled this data in 2015, making its overall rate of 53.4% the highest of any local authority area in the UK.
There are a total of nine London parliamentary constituency areas in the national top 25, with the two Tower Hamlets seats taking first and third places. Edmonton comes next , in 11th place (45.4%), Westminster North is 15th (44.4%), East Ham 17th (44%), Holborn and St Pancras 18th (43.9%), Hackney South and Shoreditch 20th (43.3%), Tottenham 23rd (42.6%) and West Ham 25th (42.4%).
The rate in Edmonton has risen by nine percentage points since 2015, while in East Ham it has risen by seven and in both Holborn and St Pancras and Enfield North by six.
In local authority terms, Newham, which contains East Ham and West Ham, has the third highest rate in the country at 43.2%, followed by Hackney with the fifth highest (41.3%), Westminster the sixth (41.3%), Islington ninth (40.4%), Camden 10th (39.9%), Enfield 11th (39.6%), Barking and Dagenham 16th (37.8%), Haringey 17th (37.2%), Brent 19th (36.8%) and Waltham Forest 25th (35.9%).
A breakdown of electoral wards finds Bethnal Green North to have the highest child poverty rate in London at 57.4%, though there are three wards elsewhere in England where the rates are higher still. The highest of all is 62.1% in Coldhurst ward in Oldham.
All the statistics take into account housing costs, which in London are particularly high. A child is defined as living in poverty if the family he or she is part of has an income of less than 60% of the median household income or around £248 a week after housing costs are taken out. For a household with two children under 14, the poverty line income is £347 per week.
End Child Poverty attributes rising poverty rates to price rises and calls on the government to end the freeze of benefits relating to children, which are set to be in place until the end of this decade, affecting working and nono-working households alike.
The research, conducted for the charity coalition by academics at Loughborough University’s Centre for research in Social Policy, also concludes that conditions are worsened for low income households by what it calls a “poverty premium”, with the cost of credit hitting them harder than the more affluent when purchasing basic goods and services.
Calling on the government to unfreeze the relevant benefits and to invest in “interest-free credit” for low income families, Alison Garnham of the Child Poverty Action Group, a member of the coalition, said such households are “caught between rising prices and real term cuts” and that there is “a child poverty crisis” in London.