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As more go hungry, have we simply learned to live with child poverty?

It does not feature in Rishi Sunak’s current five ‘people’s priorities’, and doesn’t figure much in Keir Starmer’s agenda, either. More than a century after the pioneering efforts of the likes of Edwin Chadwick and Charles Dickens, Sean O’Grady asks if child poverty is here to stay

Sunday 24 December 2023 23:55 GMT
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<p>The benefits of a full belly for a child, like a good night’s sleep, can yield pervasive gains, making them more alert at school, healthier generally, and stronger</p>

The benefits of a full belly for a child, like a good night’s sleep, can yield pervasive gains, making them more alert at school, healthier generally, and stronger

Poverty is hardly new – it finds mention in the Bible, among other ancient texts – and it is persistent. Perhaps it is ineradicable, but it is obviously capable of amelioration, by small deeds as well as by great works by the state. Poverty is, above all, still poorly understood in all its manifestations.

That is one reason why The Independent has decided to support the charity Zarach, and to highlight one particular aspect of child poverty that gains even less attention than most: bed poverty. Whatever one’s politics, it should be an astonishing, and rather shameful, fact that approaching a million children in the UK are living without a bed and are having to share with family members or sleep on the floor.

That is something we can do something about, and are doing so. Yet it begs the question of why, more than a century after the pioneering efforts of the likes of Edwin Chadwick, Charles Dickens, and Seebohm Rowntree, and decades of attention, child poverty is still so widespread today, and, in terms of relative poverty by comparison with rising living standards, it is on the rise.

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