Child poverty in Cornwall

this is an update of an earlier post giving only national data. It includes an interactive map of Cornwall

Child Poverty in Cornwall stands at 16.9% Before Housing Costs and 26.3% After Housing Costs.

Nationally the figure is  28% after housing costs, 3.7 million children  or 9 in classroom of 30

If you take the After Housing Costs measurement, that means just over one in four children lives in poverty in Cornwall.


Instructions: 1. click on this link to go to the interactive map to see child poverty After Housing Costs based on Ward 2. then click on an area of the map to call up information which includes both before and after housing costs for each Ward(you may need to use the zoom to reveal more detail e.g. Penzance see bottom right hand corner of map)

What’s the difference between Before and After?

Well measuring income Before Housing Costs means that we treat spending on things such as rent and mortgage interest like we do spending on food or heating. It assumes you have a choice in the kind of housing you want to live in, including the mortgage or rent you pay[i]. However many people  do not have a choice; they have to spend a disproportionate amount of their income   on high rent, poor quality accommodation.  What they have left over may barely cover other essentials such as food and heating. For that reason it is often better to look at After Housing Costs.

The gap between the two different poverty measures has grown which reflects the rising housing costs over the past decade compared to other costs. Childcare and housing are two of the costs that take the biggest toll on families’ budgets. When you account for childcare costs, an extra 130,000 children are pushed into poverty[ii]

While Cornwall is far from having the highest proportion of children in poverty – Tower Hamlets in London has 49% and Hackney 41%[iii] – there are still deep pockets of poverty. Penzance East Ward has 41% of its children in poverty, Bugle Ward 38%, Camborne West 34%, Bodmin Central 30%. These figures are After Housing Costs.

For a full list of Wards and Constituencies giving a breakdown of child poverty, click here>>>

What’s the national picture?


The National Picture: Child Poverty fell between 2007 and 2013 both before and after housing costs

Chart: Child Poverty Rate over time, courtesy of Full Fact

Seventeen per cent (17%)of children are currently living in poverty before housing costs are taken into account. This rises to 27% after housing costs

To repeat: The gap between the two different poverty measures   reflects the rising housing costs relative to other expenditure . Childcare and housing are two of the costs that take the biggest toll on families’ budgets. When you account for childcare costs, an extra 130,000 children are pushed into poverty[iv]

So the fall in Child Poverty is good news isn’t it?

Not really, because this just reflects the fall in income suffered by everyone as a result of the financial crash. However people at the bottom rung of the income ladder saw their incomes fall slightly less, relative to those at the top and middle.

Poverty is measured as the proportion of people living in households with an income below 60% of the contemporary median (average)  household income. Income is disposable household income after tax, National Insurance and Council Tax. The UK’s median income has fallen in the last two years, and so the ‘poverty line’ itself has fallen also.

At the same time the relative share of in-work poverty has grown from under a half to nearly two thirds in the past decade. - #156 - child-poverty-parent-work-status

 Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Two-thirds (64 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one member works[v].

Chart: Child Poverty by parent work status, courtesy Joseph Rowntree Foundation

Child poverty has long-lasting effects. By GCSE, there is a 28 per cent gap between children receiving free school meals and their wealthier peers in terms of the number achieving at least 5 A*-C GCSE grades[vi].

Poverty is also related to more complicated health histories over the course of a lifetime, again influencing earnings as well as the overall quality – and indeed length – of life. Men in the most deprived areas of England have a life expectancy 9.2 years shorter than men in the least deprived areas. They also spend 14% less of their life in good health[vii] .  Women share similar statistics.

Finally, Child Poverty imposes costs on broader society – estimated to be at least £29 billion a year [viii]. Governments forgo prospective revenues as well as commit themselves to providing services in the future if they fail to address child poverty in the here and now.

Please see the Child Poverty Action Group from which the above data and commentary was drawn>>>

The Government has changed the way child poverty is measured

It has hard not to be sceptical at such a decision given the large additional reductions in child poverty that are in theory legally required under the Child Poverty Act (see Instute of Fiscal studies paper here>>)

The Conservative party’s 2015 general election manifesto said the government would “work to eliminate child poverty and introduce better measures to drive real change in children’s lives, by recognising the root causes of poverty: entrenched worklessness, family breakdown, problem debt, and drug and alcohol dependency”.

In July 2015, the British government announced a change in the target for child poverty in the UK, moving away from a measure based on income to focusing on the “root causes” of poverty such as unemployment and family breakdown.

While using income as the sole indicator does not draw a full picture about life outcomes for children, income is still a critical factor – particularly since it is low wage work rather than unemployment that affects two out of three children found to be in poverty.

The new figures based on the government’s revised measurements turn out to differ little from the old measurements: 2.3 million on relative poverty and 2.6 million found to be in absolute poverty .

The changes in measurement have given rise to considerable criticism and while there are real limitations to a purely income based measure, the new focus on ‘root causes’, particularly at the level of the family alone, is arguably worse by placing the burden of tackling poverty on parents and children themselves. As Keetie Roelen, from the Institute of Development Studies says “In a perfect world of child poverty targets and measurement, income measures would be complemented by non-income ones, and analysis of root causes would go beyond what happens within the family. Anything less risks turning poverty analysis into a blame game rather than a problem to be solved.”

[i] Full Fact: Poverty in the UK, a guide to the facts and figures

[ii] D Hirsch and L Valadez. How much does the official measure of child poverty under-estimate its extent by failing to take account of childcare costs? June 2015.

[iii] Compilation of child poverty local indicators 2014 update by Donald Hirsch and Laura Valadez, Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP), Loughborough University. August 2014

[iv] D Hirsch and L Valadez. How much does the official measure of child poverty under-estimate its extent by failing to take account of childcare costs? June 2015.

[v] Households Below Average Income, An analysis of the income distribution 1994/95 – 2013/14, Table 4.5db. Department for Work and Pensions, 2015

[vi] GCSE and equivalent attainment by pupil characteristics: 2014. Department for Education, February 2015.

[vii] Inequality in Healthy Life Expectancy at Birth by National Deciles of Area Deprivation: England, 2009-11. Office for National Statistics, Statistical Bulletin. 14 March 2014.

[viii] D Hirsch, Estimating the costs of child poverty. Child Poverty Action Group. 2013


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