Rochdale has one of the highest child poverty rates in the UK

Date published: 06 June 2023

More than 40% of children in the Rochdale borough are living in poverty, new figures have revealed, making it one of the areas with the highest child poverty rates in the whole of the UK.

The End Child Poverty Coalition launched its annual child poverty statistics for the UK, this week revealing child poverty levels at a local authority and Westminster constituency level.

This research, carried out by Loughborough University on behalf of the coalition, shows that 37% of children and young people in Greater Manchester are living in poverty, the equivalent of a staggering 11 children in a classroom of 30.

In the Rochdale borough, this increases to 40.5% - or 12 children in a classroom of 30 – meaning Rochdale has the 20th highest level of child poverty in the UK.

Of the 20 local authorities in the UK with the highest child poverty rates, four are in London, nine in the north (four in Greater Manchester, four in Lancashire and one in North Yorkshire), with the remaining seven local authorities located in the East and West Midlands.

The Rochdale constituency itself (excluding Heywood and Middleton) has one of the highest 10 child poverty rates in Greater Manchester with 44.8% of children living in poverty – a 5.3% increase from 2015-22.

By comparison, the child poverty rate in Heywood and Middleton is 33.3% - a 2.8% increase from 2015-22.

Across the North West as a whole, the number of children living in poverty has seen a worrying increase in the last 7 years, rising 5.4 percentage points since 2014/15. During this time, child poverty only rose by one percentage point across the UK.

Nationally, the cost-of-living crisis has driven up the number of children experiencing poverty to 4.2 million last year (29 per cent of all dependent children aged 0-19), with an increasing number living in working households. Some 71 per cent of them live in households where at least one adult works.

Commenting on the figures, Graham Whitham, End Child Poverty Coalition spokesperson and CEO of Greater Manchester Poverty Action said: “These new figures are shocking but not surprising. Child poverty rates have been rising in Greater Manchester for a number of years, and government failure to adequately support people means there is no safety net when something like the pandemic or cost-of living crisis hit.

“Crisis responses and temporary sticking plasters are very clearly not working, and the UK government has no plan or strategy to address poverty. We need to see real policy change that protects and supports our poorest households, such as ending the two-child limit on benefits.

“While many of the main drivers to tackle poverty lie with central government, there are ways we can reduce poverty locally. We urge employers across Greater Manchester to pay the Real Living Wage, which reflects the real cost of living in a way that the statutory minimum set by government doesn’t.

“We also encourage local authorities to develop anti-poverty strategies which implement robust responses to poverty, and to use the Household Support Fund to give families money rather than in kind support such as food parcels and energy vouchers.”

Rochdale MP, Sir Tony Lloyd, has signed a signing a Parliamentary motion calling for the government to act on recommendations made by the Child of the North All-Party Parliamentary Groups' report on Child Poverty and the Cost of Living Crisis.

The report warns that increasing child poverty and cost of living pressures has pushed vulnerable families in the north of England to the edge.

The Parliamentary motion calls for the government to make sure families with children have enough money and security of income to meet basic needs, such as healthy food to eat and warm homes.

Families in the north are more likely to be living in poor quality, damp homes. More than 98,500 homes in the north already had some form of damp before the cost of living began to rise, and 1.1 million homes in the north failed ‘decent homes’ criteria.

The report also found that one million households in the north were fuel-poor before the current crisis, 15% of homes compared to 12% elsewhere.

Mr Lloyd said: “In some parts of Rochdale, over half of all children are living in poverty with the bulk of those having parents in work. That is a scandal.

"The picture across the north of England is just as grim and this goes back to before the current cost of living crisis and the aftermath of Covid. New pressures have pushed vulnerable families to the edge and risks creating a disastrous situation likely to last for future generations.

"Sadly, poverty is not a new experience for many children in the north but there are things the government could do now to help, such as increasing child benefit by up to £20 a week and expand Free School Meals to all children whose families receive Universal Credit.

"The government must look at expanding and auto-enrolling the Healthy Start Scheme, ensuring consistent food provisions during school holidays and actions to improve the energy efficiency of homes."

Heywood and Middleton MP Chris Clarkson has also been contacted for comment.

Deputy leader and cabinet member for health, councillor Daalat Ali said: “We acknowledge that this is a shocking situation to be in and, like many other districts, the figures in Rochdale have increased. Although the drivers for the increase are beyond the council's control, we have been working tirelessly to mitigate the impact on our children.

“Through investment from the national household fund (£4.6 million in this financial year), we are supporting our poorest families, by providing supermarket vouchers, fuel vouchers and white goods. We continue to provide financial support for our network of food clubs and food pantries, support residents who are digitally excluded and offer a huge range of cost-of-living grants to support our vibrant voluntary, charitable and faith organisations who are dedicated to supporting individuals and families across the borough.

“We also continue to invest in our warm homes programme, which includes boiler replacements and repairs, and roof repairs, amongst a range of other interventions for families who may be struggling to keep their homes warm and dry.

“By providing more face to face welfare advice to residents, we are working hard to put more money in residents’ pockets, plus, our work and skills team are ensuring we have access to additional well-paid jobs and are working to support residents into these.

“We are drawing all this together and more into our anti-poverty strategy which also includes, our dedicated helpline, website pages and messages on our social media sites that ensure residents are aware of the support available and who to contact.”

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