There are many reasons why a family might be living in poverty – for children it’s simple. They are born into it. 


London council estate housing block- typ

Some of the consequences of poverty are:

  • Health problems

  • Shorter life expectancy

  • Lower educational achievement

  • Biological effects – poverty early in a child’s life can have a harmful effect on their brain development

  • Housing problems 

  • Being a victim or perpetrator of  crime

  • Drug or alcohol problems 

  • Homelessness

  • Teenage parenthood

  • Relationship and family problems

What causes poverty?

  • Unemployment and low-paid jobs

  • Illness

  • Low levels of skills or education 

  • An ineffective benefit system 

  • High costs

  • Discrimination

  • Weak relationships

  • Poverty itself

  • Abuse, trauma, neglect or chaotic lives: the use of drugs and alcohol can deepen and prolong poverty as can childhood abuse which can impact on mental health in adult life and lead to unemployment.

  • Prison: Prisoners are likely to suffer – having a criminal record makes it very difficult to obtain work.

View of an Old Rubbish Strewn Back Stree

Lack of affordable childcare

  • Childcare is over 25% more expensive in London than the British average for under-fives – costs are rising much faster than any other region in the UK.

Low Pay

Low pay itself does not always indicate poverty – other factors, such as in-work benefits, income of a partner or other family members, family size and housing costs, which are particularly pertinent in London.

  • Wages have failed to keep pace with London soaring living costs.

  • In 2017, 730,000 people were paid below the London Living Wage (£9.75 in 2016/17).

  • People who are BAME are more likely to be ON LOWER WAGES, especially people from Bangladeshi or Pakistani origin, and women are more likely to be low paid than men. 

  • There is a strong link between employment and the number of hours worked in a family and income.

  • Just 53% of women with children are employed in London, compared to 65% across the UK.

In addition, living in poverty in London is impacted by general cost of living – travel costs are amongst the highest in the world along with food, clothing and entertainment.

What is poverty?

  • Relative income poverty - where households have less than 60% of contemporary median income - £16,362  (ONS 2017)

  • Absolute  income poverty - where households have less than 60% of the median income in 2010/11, uprated by inflation - £13,920 (ONS 2013)

  • Material deprivation - where you can’t afford certain essential items and activities

  • Destitution - where you can’t afford basics such as shelter, heating and clothing.

Government statistics show that 4.1 million children are living in relative poverty compared with 4 million the previous year, accounting for more than 30 per cent of children.


UK Child poverty is now the highest it has been since the 2008 financial crisis and the overall number of people in poverty in Britain has risen to 10.4 million, the highest level this decade. Over half of all children living in London live in poverty.


A very high percentage live in Tower Hamlets – next door to two of the most affluent areas in the world – Canary Wharf and the City of London. 

Child facing bleak london street.jpg

The FIVE LONDON  Boroughs with the highest rates of child poverty (after Housing costs) are:

Tower Hamlets              53%

Newham                        43%

Hackney                         41%

Westminster                  41%

Islington                         40%

What are the factors that explain such high rates?

High housing costs

London housing and rental prices are amongst the highest in the world.

  • The cost of housing is the main factor explaining London's higher poverty rates compared with other parts of the country.

  • As London's housing costs soar – even in these unpredictable times - more and more children are being made homeless as their carers lose access to affordable, secure, quality housing.

  • There are more people in poverty living in the private rented sector than any other type of housing tenure - the number of children living in poverty in private rented accommodation has tripled in the last decade.

  • 7 in 10 households in temporary accommodation in England are in London and 80% of these households include children.

Woman holding a purse with a little girl