Report reveals slight fall in child poverty figure


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The number of children living below the poverty line in the UK has fallen slightly, but the figure remains stubbornly above two million, official figures showed today.

Some 18% of children were living in households in the UK with incomes of less than 60% of the median average in 2010/11, equating to 2.3 million children, according to figures released by the Department for Work and Pensions.

When housing costs were taken into account, this share rose to more than a quarter (27%) of children, representing 3.6 million people.

The figures show 300,000 fewer children are living in poverty than they were a year earlier, or 200,000 fewer after housing costs are taken into account.

Both measures are 2% below the figures for 2009/10, but they show the Government has some way to go to meet a Labour target, enshrined in law, to eliminate child poverty by 2020.

The figures also fall short of a pledge by Labour a decade ago when 3.4 million children were living in poverty to halve child poverty by 2010/11.

Compared with 1998/99, the number of children living in poverty was 1.1 million lower before housing costs and a 900,000 fall after housing costs were taken into account.

Justin Forsyth, Save the Children's chief executive, said: "The reality is that there are 3.6 million children growing up in poverty in the UK, children without a winter coat or going to bed hungry, and this number is set to grow.

"The Government needs to focus not on changing definitions but on policies that work, like the living wage, affordable child care and on early education programmes targeted at low income families that allow children to get the very most out of school."

Matthew Reed, chief executive of the Children's Society, said: "Today's figures show that although the interim child poverty target has not been met, action since the start of the millennium has pulled 1.1 million children out of poverty."

He added: "It is shameful that over the coming decade this progress is likely to be reversed by the Government's drastic cuts to support and services for the country's most vulnerable children and families. Child poverty is a scar on our national conscience."

The number of working age adults living in poverty has risen since 1998/99, although the figures have fallen back slightly on the previous year.

Some 5.5 million working age adults - or 15% - were found to be living in poverty, rising to 21% or 7.8 million after housing costs.

These figures are a rise of half a million working age people in poverty before housing costs and a 1.1 million increase after housing costs, compared with 1998/99.

Across the whole population, 9.8 million people, representing 16% across the UK, were in households with incomes below the poverty line in 2010/11, rising to more than a fifth (21%) or 13 million people, after housing costs were taken into account.

This is a fall of around half a million people on both measures compared with a year earlier.

The level of income which defines someone living in poverty was set as £251 per week.

The latest study also found that two million pensioners were living in poverty before housing costs, representing 17% of pensioners, a drop of 1% on the previous year.

Compared with 1998/99, 700,000 fewer pensioners were found to be living in poverty, a fall of 9%.