London needs to act now to tackle child poverty

Child poverty in the capital is rising and in some areas more than half of all children are living in poverty

As living and housing costs soar, wages stagnate and state support diminishes, families in London are finding it increasingly hard to achieve a basic standard of living. Children living in London are more likely to live in poverty than their peers anywhere elsewhere in the country.

What is child poverty?

We don’t need to eat as long as there is food for the kids.
Parent talking to 4in10

Four in every ten children are growing up in poverty across the capital and in some areas that figure has risen to one in every two. Work should give everyone a decent standard of living but two-thirds of children in poverty are in working households and many parents are struggling in low paid, insecure work that does not provide a stable income to live on.

Income matters. How can families manage if there is not enough money coming in to cover the essentials? Many parents face impossible decisions each month whether to pay their rent, heat their home or put food on the table.

Income matters for childhood too - so that children can have the same as experiences as their friends such as birthday parties, access to books and resources, going on educational trips or having a hobby, as well as to live without the sense of stigma or shame that poverty can bring.

Income also matters for child development. It enables a family to provide more of the things a child needs to develop healthily such as fresh fruit and vegetables, warm clothes and a roof over their heads. It also changes the environment the family lives in. The stress and anxiety caused by financial worries has a detrimental impact on the mental health and wellbeing of parents and their children.   

I’m very anxious about the future of my son. He needed £7 to go on a trip. I didn’t have it but if school is going on a trip I want him to go. So I took seven buses instead of the train to work… just to save up £7.
Parent talking to 4in10

Official definition

Child poverty is defined by income; where it is significantly below that of the average so that a child is excluded from activities and opportunities that are considered everyday or customary in their society. In the UK context this is less than 60% of median income. There is an intentional insistence that child poverty is not only specifically about low incomes but also relative; a recognition of inequality as well as recognition of deep and lasting disadvantage.

How is London responding?

They moved me into a bedsit but it wasn’t safe, people tried to break into my room, and the electricity wasn’t working.
Pregnant mother talking to 4in10

4in10 was established to support the community-based organisations working tirelessly across London to tackle child poverty and its impact. As our society invests less and less in the mechanisms that help prevent families from being pulled into the current of poverty, it is our members (opens in a new window) with their wealth of experience, compassion and expertise that families are turning to to keep their heads above water.

Foodbank usage has soared across the capital; our members Pecan Southwark Foodbank (opens in a new window) have seen a 30% increase in the first quarter of this year compared to this time last year and are preparing themselves for a surge in demand over the summer holidays.

Homelessness is reaching crisis point; 7 out of 10 homeless households in England are in London and 80% of those contain children. Many homeless families are housed in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs and hostels that are unsuitable and potentially unsafe for families. Our members the Magpie Project (opens in a new window) and Hackney Playbus (opens in a new window) provide play opportunities for children living in temporary accommodation and act as a one-stop-shop community hub providing advice on housing, welfare entitlements and employment.

How can we end child poverty?

London’s community organisations cannot provide the solution to poverty alone. At 4in10, we believe the newly elected administrations provide an opportunity for London councils to take action to tackle child poverty and our recent polling (opens in a new window) suggests that the majority of Londoners agree.

Recognising the challenges local councils face, as part of the London Child Poverty Alliance (opens in a new window) we are campaigning for local authorities to implement 12 practical actions to help families overcome the challenges they face.

We want councils to lead the way by paying all staff the London Living Wage, offering business rate relief to employers that follow suit, so that working parents can earn an income they can live on. At 4in10 we would also like to see councils protect the relatively small but vital grants made to London’s community organisations that are making such a difference to the lives of children in poverty.

Quotes taken from 4in10's Young Parents in London: Living with Precariousness (opens in a new window) report and Inner City Pressures: Voices of low income working families on the complex challenges they face report  (opens in a new window).