Fears coronavirus lockdown will increase child poverty in UK as latest figures show rise of almost a fifth in the last four years

  • Child poverty was rising rapidly before coronavirus hit family incomes
  • Between 2014/15 and 2018/19, child poverty increased by nearly a fifth, from 15.6% to 18.4%, before the pressure of rising housing costs on families is taken into account
  • Loughborough University analysis shows how this increase varies greatly across the UK
  • Highest increase came in the North East, where child poverty rose from 17.3% to 23.7% (+6.5%)
  • The East Midlands region remains unchanged at 16.6% (-/+0%). However, the West Midlands, it rose from 19.1% to 23.8%, widening the gap between the two Midlands regions
  • Temporary boosts to Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit should be made permanent and more widely available to help those families who are struggling

New research shows that child poverty in the UK has increased by 2.8% in the last four years, but experts fear the figure will grow due to the impact of coronavirus.

Researchers from Loughborough University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) have analysed data that shows which regions, local authorities and parliamentary constituencies are most at risk of deprivation.

The report, published today by the charity End Child Poverty, highlights the North East as the biggest regional area of concern, with a 6.5% rise between 2014/15 and 2018/19.

Overall, the highest rates of child poverty are seen in northern local authorities such as Oldham, Middlesbrough and Blackburn, where nearly four in ten children are in poverty.

The ongoing COVID-19 lockdown is putting struggling families under even more financial pressure and could drag even more people below the poverty threshold, say the report’s authors.

Professor Donald Hirsch, director of CRSP, who led the study, said: “As we went into the present crisis, child poverty rates were rising after years of austerity culminating in a freeze in out of work benefits. A month before the freeze was lifted, the country went into lockdown.

“Many families around the country are struggling to keep their heads above water, faced with uncertain income and the pressures of looking after and educating children at home.

“The Government's response to this has the potential to put more money into the hands of some of those families.

“It is helping many stay in jobs through the furlough scheme and is improving safety net incomes for some families who are out of work or in low paid jobs, by giving them around £1,000 a year more – for 12 months – if they are on Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit.”

However, millions of people still rely on the older benefits and tax credit system, including Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit and Income Support, and are not eligible for the additional subsidy if they are not working.

Prof Hirsch said: “Our evidence showed that before the crisis, an out of work family got only just over half what they needed for a decent living standard if they relied on these benefits.

“The improvements brought in by the Chancellor have not closed this gap, but they have reduced the shortfall.

“And it is puzzling that an out of work family still on the old tax credits system gets nothing, but one in exactly the same situation – but on Universal Credit – gets £1,000 more this year. 

“In the longer term, families will be hoping that these improvements to the safety net are followed through beyond the present crisis.

“The logic is that if we want children to be able to live at a minimum acceptable level, these improvements, announced as temporary, should become permanent.”

Change in child poverty by region, 2014/15 to 2018/19


Child poverty rate




% point increase

North East




West Midlands




North West




Yorkshire and Humberside












South East








East Midlands








South West




To read the full report, visit: https://bit.ly/2ZmRQs2


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 20/78

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2019 QS World University Rankings, University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019 and top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey.

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and 8th in The UK Complete University Guide 2020.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.