With the world concentrating it’s attention on the Covid-19 pandemic other issues are, understandably, passing unnoticed. One of these issues is the continuing growth in poverty in Kent & the UK which is likely to grow even more as consequence of the current crisis.
According to the last Govt figures issued last week, which cover cover the last five financial year, child poverty, both relative and absolute, in Kent has increased for the fifth year running!
The interactive chart (hover over bars for numbers) below is for relative poverty between 2014/15 – 2018/19 for all 12 Kent districts.
The number of children aged under 16 living in absolute poverty has reached 44,771, and those living in relative poverty has reached 55,113, according to data released by the Department of Works & Pensions (DWP) and HMRC last week.
To put that into context the number of children living in absolute poverty is almost the population of Dover (44,846) within the given area of the map, and more than the population of Tonbridge (41,293), according to the latest Office of Nationals Statistics (ONS) population data.
Defining poverty in the UK, the headline measures are based on household income and so these are the terms used in this post.
An individual is in absolute poverty if they are living in households with income below 60% of the 2010/11 median, uprated for inflation. By using an income threshold that is fixed in time, this measure looks at how living standards of low-income households are changing over time.
Across all 12 districts a further 5,270 under sixteens have been dragged into absolute poverty between 2014/15 and 2018/19.
The relative poverty figures are slightly higher with 51,113 living in relative poverty across all 12 districts of Kent. This is more than the population of Royal Tunbridge Wells – 51,070 within the boundary of the map, according to latest ONS population data
An individual is in relative poverty if they are living in a household with income below 60% of median household income in that year. This measure essentially looks at inequality between low- and middle-income households.
Across all 12 districts a further 12,629 under sixteens have been dragged into relative poverty between 2014/15 and 2018/19.
By any standard, these statistics are appalling. They demonstrate that both Kent County Council and all 12 District Councils have totally failed in their duty to regenerate the Kent area, attract inward investment, create new, well paying jobs, and improve our education and housing services.
These shameful statistics are not state secrets. They are publicly available on the DWP website for anyone to see. Nor are the trends they reveal anything new or surprising. The fact is that child poverty, low income, zero hours contracts, unemployment and benefit dependency, poor education and housing services and huge heath inequalities have been part of the lives of millions of people for decades.
When the Covid-19 crisis is over the rate of poverty is predicted to grow rapidly and on a scale much larger than in 2008. The post Covid19 world economic recession is likely to mean that millions will lose their jobs, working hours will be reduced, wages will be frozen or cut.
We suspect that with the advent of coronavirus, more children under sixteen will fall into poverty, be it absolute or relative, when the 2019/20 figures are published next year.
An increasing number of persons in Kent have applied for the main unemployment benefit universal credit over the past two weeks after losing their jobs as a result of factories, shops and businesses closing. Claimants face a minimum five-week wait for the benefit to come through, although they can take out an immediate repayable advance loan deducted from future payments.
Although the government has acted swiftly, there are already reports that the lowest paid in Kent district are struggling to afford food and utilities such as gas and electricity, and food banks across Kent are reporting big increases in demand.
The figures show that poverty is not just rising, but deepening in absolute terms, with 5,270 children pulled into absolute poverty compared to 2014/15. This is equivalent to the population of Headcorn within the boundary of the map above, according to ONS population data.
The current coronavirus crisis is likely to see this number continue to rise as parents face job losses and falls in earnings.
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