MORE than a quarter of all children in every Welsh local authority now live below the poverty line, research has shown. 

The End Child Poverty coalition has highlighted how child poverty rates in Wales have remained stubbornly high even as the UK rate fell during the first year of the pandemic. 

The charities say extra support given to families during 2020 is likely to have contributed to child poverty in the UK falling to the lowest level in seven years during the first year of the pandemic. 

But its research shows more than one in three children living in Wales were trapped below the poverty line, which is below 60% median income after housing costs, during the first year of the covid pandemic. 

They also say that overall UK rates have remained “alarmingly high” over the past decade, with 3.6 million children living in poverty in 2020-21. 

And with the universal credit increase now removed, and amid the rising cost of living, they warn more families will be plunged into poverty without increased Government support. 

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Members of the End Child Poverty coalition in Wales - including Child Poverty Action Group, Save the Children and Children in Wales - are calling on the UK government to ensure benefits permanently keep pace with inflation, not just through the one-off measures announced by the former Chancellor in May.  

They are also calling on the Welsh Government to implement a new child poverty strategy and delivery plan as a matter of urgency. 

The new research by Loughborough University, on behalf of the coalition, shows that the headline rate of child poverty across the UK fell during 2020/21, primarily as a result of the temporary £20 a week uplift to universal credit brought in during the pandemic.  

However, most local authorities in Wales continued to experience high rates of child poverty. Areas that were hit by the sharpest increases in unemployment and economic inactivity at the start of the pandemic are also those areas which top the table in terms of child poverty rates, once housing costs are taken into account 

The new research adjusts local area statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions to take account of different housing costs across Wales, giving a more accurate reflection of the money families have to make ends meet.  

The estimates show child poverty is consistently high across all local authorities in Wales, ranging from 27 per cent in Monmouthshire to over 36 per cent in Newport and Cardiff with more than a quarter of all children in all 22 Welsh local authorities now living below the poverty line. 

The UK Government has since decided to cut Universal Credit by £1,040 a year, meaning many of the children who were lifted out of poverty by the temporary increase will also have been forced back over the brink into poverty. 

Naomi Lea, 23 from Denbighshire, grew up in a family who were experiencing poverty, and is an End Child Poverty Coalition Ambassador 

She said: “Often having a job is simply not enough to survive on for these families. Speaking to any one of them you would see that they are not to blame and that we urgently need action to bring these figures down.  

“Growing up in poverty, I experienced many things no child should ever have to. For many years of my life, my mum worked in the care sector, but unfortunately this still did not allow us enough money to live on.

"I became very aware from a young age about our financial situation, from bigger worries, like whether we would be able to pay the rent and keep a roof over our heads to the daily worries about what food we would be to afford. It wasn’t that I was told I couldn’t access a after school club or music lesson but that I literally never asked. No child should have to be so aware of that. 

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“I’m 23 now and have moved away from my family home and would no longer consider myself as living in poverty, but the impact of growing up with those experiences is something I live with every day.

"Money is something that still terrifies me and can cause me intense anxiety, and the stigma of living in poverty is something that still plagues me. With the cost of living rising, those fears reignite, and I can only imagine the intensity of those feelings for those still living in poverty.  

“The mental health impact of living in poverty, of fighting to survive on so little, is huge and often underestimated in our society. For those children and families in these figures, it is not only about making sure they have the financial resource to live and thrive but also about the emotional support that needs to be available now and in their futures.” 

Child poverty in figures 

Despite the overall UK-wide annual fall, in addition to Wales child poverty rose in three regions of England - the East and North East and Yorkshire and the Humber. 

And while the UK child poverty rate has fallen by two percentage points since 2015, it has risen in five regions over this time. 

The biggest increase was in the North East, a rise of 12 percentage points to reach 38%, followed by six percentage points in Yorkshire and the Humber and five percentage points in Wales. 

The highest rates continue to be in major cities and London boroughs, according to the coalition, which represents more than 70 organisations. 

Over half of children growing up in Tower Hamlets were living in poverty in 2020-21, and over 40 per cent of children in five more London boroughs, and Luton, Newcastle, Birmingham, Middlesbrough and Sunderland. 

Two-thirds of children in poverty were living in a home where at least one adult was in work. 

Some 40 per cent of children in lone-parent households were in poverty, compared to 24% of those whose parents live together. 

The National Wales:

Using a separate measure of poverty, covering households with income below 60% of median income in a base year – usually 2010/11 – adjusted for inflation the Government said there were 500,000 fewer children in poverty after housing costs than in 2009/10. 

What has the UK Government said? 

A UK Government spokesman said the eight million most vulnerable families will be protected during the cost-of-living crisis with at least £1,200 in direct payments from this week. 

He said: “Through our £37 billion support package we are saving the typical employee over £330 a year through a tax cut this month, allowing people on Universal Credit to keep £1,000 more of what they earn and in April we significantly increased the National Living Wage to £9.50, the largest ever rise.” 

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