Published: 09:40, 20 May 2021
| Updated: 11:06, 21 May 2021
The number of children living in poverty in the county has risen over the last five years, new data shows.
According to latest research for the year 2019/2020, there are 104,951 children in poverty in Kent. This has increased by 2,247 since 2015.
Judith Cavanagh, from End Child Poverty, talks about the increase in those living in hardship
The area with the highest number of children living in deprivation is Dover, where more than a third of children (35%) are in poverty, a jump of 5.5% over a five year period.
The research, carried out by Loughborough University for the End Child Poverty Coalition, shows that the steep increase in child poverty in Dover over the past five years has been fuelled by stagnating incomes and high housing costs, which are pushing some families to the brink.
This is closely followed by Gravesend, where 34% of children are in poverty.
Thirty-two per cent of children living in Chatham and Aylesford, and Folkestone and Hythe are also suffering from deprivation.
In Gillingham and Rainham, South Thanet and Sittingbourne and Sheppey, 31% of children are living in poverty.
The areas in Kent with the lowest levels of child poverty are in Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Malling and Tunbridge Wells.
Overall in the UK, in March 2020, there were 4.3 million children living in poverty, over half a million more than five years previously.
Typically, largest cities are hit the hardest, with the greatest concentrations of child poverty in London and Birmingham, the UK’s two largest cities.
Across both cities, there are a dozen constituencies where the majority of children live in poverty, once housing costs are taken into account. In London in particular, high housing costs leave many families with very little money left after paying for the roof over their heads.
The End Child Poverty Coalition say that most children in poverty have working parents.
Three out of four children who live in poverty have at least one working adult in their household. Yet, low-paid jobs and a freeze in in-work benefits, mean their wages are no longer enough to keep their families out of poverty.
There are other costs. As one young person put it, “parents working full time to stay out of poverty means you personally lose out on interactions and a sense of attachment.”
The charity also warns that the impact of Covid-19 on poverty is not yet fully known.
Anna Feuchtwang, chair of the End Child Poverty Coalition said: “The figures speak for themselves - the situation for children couldn’t be starker.
"We all want to live in a society where children are supported to be the best they can be, but the reality is very different for too many.
"The UK Government can be in no doubt about the challenge it faces if it is serious about ‘levelling up’ parts of the country hardest hit by poverty.
'The figures speak for themselves - the situation for children couldn’t be starker...'
"After the year we’ve all had, they owe it to our children to come up with a plan to tackle child poverty that includes a boost to children’s benefits.
"And they need to scrap plans to cut Universal Credit given parents and children are having a tough enough time as it is."
Children’s charity, and coalition member, Buttle UK provides financial assistance in the form of grants directly to families struggling. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation has seen a surge in application rates across the south east with a staggering increase of 55% in the period April 2020 and March 2021, compared to the same period the year before.
Joseph Howes, CEO of Buttle UK, said: “Even in the South East, which we tend to regard as one of the most affluent parts of the UK, there is evidence of a rise in child poverty even before the crisis.
"We know things will have got worse since.
"The steep increase Buttle UK have seen in requests for our support in the last year tells us how dramatically the Covid crisis has hit the most vulnerable families - in the South East and all across the UK.
"As the country starts to move out of lockdown, and we begin to plan for recovery, this must include a co-ordinated response to child poverty. We urge the Government to take the lead on making this happen."
A government spokesperson said: "Latest figures show that the number of children in absolute poverty has fallen by 300,000 since 2010.
"We are committed to supporting families most in need, spending billions more on welfare and planning a long-term route out of poverty by protecting jobs through furlough and helping people find new work through our Plan for Jobs.
"We also introduced our £269 million Covid Local Support Grant to help children and families stay warm and well-fed throughout the pandemic."