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19th August 2020 | Save the Children

Coronavirus hotspot Oldham has the highest rate of child poverty in England, with deprivation set to soar further if the town extends lockdown, Save the Children warns today.

After a spike in new coronavirus cases, Oldham is facing the prospect of an extended local lockdown, which could increase job losses among some of the country’s poorest families. There are 24,500 children living in poverty in the city – almost two in five (38%) – and children in Oldham are over six times more likely to be living in poverty than those in wealthier areas of the country. ​

Oldham has seen an increase in families claiming Universal Credit since the start of the crisis, with over 24,000 households now claiming the benefit – of which 10,300 are families with children.

In a recent survey by Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, seven in 10 low income families said they didn’t have enough money to cover food and essential items, with six in ten saying they have been forced to borrow money since the start of the crisis.

With lockdown measures extended, families on low incomes will be forced to struggle for even longer. 

Save the Children warns that without urgent action to help the poorest families through increases to the social security system, child poverty could rise, pushing families even further into poverty.

The charity is calling for a £20-a-week boost to the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit to help the poorest families.

Becca Lyon, Head of Child Poverty at Save the Children, said:

Life in lockdown has already been extremely tough for families, and it’s not right that it is the poorest children who are being hit hardest. Further local lockdowns could lead to more job losses and prevent families from going back to work, which will be devastating for children in Oldham, who are already the country’s poorest.

“Parents reeling from the effects of this pandemic already tell us they’re at breaking point, and that they’re having to cut back on food and other essentials to get by. We can't expect them to live this way for even longer without additional support.

Providing an urgent, £20-a-week boost to the child element of Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit could help thousands of families in Oldham and other areas keep going through a longer lockdown if they have to, and protect a generation of children from being held back in the years to come.”

Notes to editors:

  • Child poverty figures show the number and proportion of children living in relative poverty before housing costs and are taken from Department for Work and Pensions data on children in low income families by local authority, 2018/19. These are available on the DWP's Stat-Xplore online tool at https://stat-xplore.dwp.gov.uk/webapi/jsf/dataCatalogueExplorer.xhtml
  • Survey data is from a survey commissioned by Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Opinium conducted a survey of 3,105 parents of children under 18, claiming either Universal Credit or Child Tax Credit for Save the Children during late May and early June 2020.

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