Friday, February 22, 2013

Child Poverty in Lewisham

Clare's Diary has done a good job in using data from the Government and the End Child Poverty campaign's data to show levels of child poverty in different parts of Lewisham and Greenwich. Nationally, 20% of children are estimated to live in poverty, for Lewisham as a whole the figure is 24%. But in some areas it is much higher- in Evelyn ward (Deptford) the rate is 37%, followed by 30% in New Cross, Bellingham and Downham. The lowest rates are in Lee Green (14%) and Crofton Park (15%), but even here more than 400 children per ward are in poverty.

Of course these figures are just estimates based on the official definition of child poverty as the percentage of children living in households earning below 60% of median income before housing costs. This definition sounds rather abstract, what living in this category means for many families in practice is children skipping meals, going without new clothes when they need them (such as new shoes or warm winter coats) or missing out on experiences that others take for granted (such as school trips or holidays).

Child poverty by London borough, source: End Child Poverty, Child Poverty Map of the UK, February 2013
Another dimension of poverty not captured in this definition is overcrowded housing. A recent report No space at home: overcrowding in London  (4in10 Campaign, 2012) found that: 'Overcrowding is on the rise again among London’s children. One in four or 391,000 children are now estimated to be growing up in an overcrowded home – an 18 per cent increase since 2008... Overcrowding is growing because of the chronic shortage of genuinely affordable family-sized social housing. For a generation, governments of all political parties have failed to provide the investment needed to build social housing in the numbers required, and the Right-to-Buy has resulted in more than a third of the Capital’s council housing moving into the private sector. London’s children are suffering the consequences of that social policy failure'.

A 2011 London Assembly report showed that in Lewisham there were more than 4,000 households on the housing waiting list needing at least three bedrooms. The report, Crowded houses: Overcrowding in London's social rented housing recommended building more large family homes. Of course, Councils alone can't build these homes without more Government funding... and that is not forthcoming!

Again, behind these figures are real children sharing beds with their siblings, teenage girls sharing bedrooms with their brothers, nights of disturbed sleep and tired days at school.

With every cut in benefits and wages, with every rent increase, with every housing development approved without enough genuinely affordable housing, the situation for these children is getting worse.

5 comments:

Monkeyboy said...

And the feeling that nice holidays and treats are not for the likes of you. It has an effect when you're a child, it can stifle confidence. I felt a bit of a fraud when I went on a holiday abroad for the first time when I started earning!

Anonymous said...

"With every cut in benefits and wages, with every rent increase, with every housing development approved without enough genuinely affordable housing, the situation for these children is getting worse."

well said Tranny

Anonymous said...

An interesting article, but when you compare UK definitions of poverty to other countries I'm afraid my sympathy goes more to the poor people outside of the UK who are really suffering from true poverty.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2282764/Hong-Kongs-human-battery-hens-Claustrophobic-images-slum-families-squeeze-lives-tiniest-apartments.html

Sue said...

Thanks for highlighting, T.

Transpontine said...

@anonymous 15:48 - yes there are children elsewhere in the world who are poorer than most poor children in the UK, but I think it's possible to have enough sympathy/human solidarity to cover both!