Section 2: Child Poverty

Important Information for 2024 Statistics

The latest Households Below Average Income (HBAI) report presents information from an annual survey on UK living standards based on household income measures for financial year ending (FYE) 2023 and was published on 21 March 2024.

Estimates are provided for average incomes, and for the number and percentage of people living in low-income households. The statistics are the UK’s primary source of poverty estimates and, with a large sample size, are also the main source on household incomes.

The HBAI statistics are commonly referred to as ‘poverty statistics’ which show the number or percentage of people living in relative and absolute poverty.

Family Resources Survey (FRS) fieldwork during FYE 2023

During the survey years spanning the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, FRS interviewing was conducted by telephone rather than using the established face-to-face method. Fieldwork operations during FYE 2023 gradually returned to the arrangements in place prior to the pandemic.

Across the UK, 72% of FRS households were interviewed face-to-face during FYE 2023. This year, the DWP have enhanced confidence in data quality due to the return of traditional fieldwork methods and the larger achieved sample size of 25 thousand households, some 30% larger than was achieved in FYE 2020, and 50% higher than FYE 2022.

DWP have completed extensive quality assurance of all published estimates, including comparing changes with external data sources, and analysing subgroups in detail. The achieved sample compares well with FYE 2020, and representativeness has improved on what was observed during the pandemic.

DWP continue to advise users that changes in estimates over recent years should be interpreted being mindful of the differences in data collection approaches across the period and the effect this had on sample composition.

Please be advised: due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) data release for 2020/21 and 2021/22 is less reliable than seen in previous years (full explanation available here).

Implications for the Fact Book

Due to the confidence in the data, latest annual data for 2021/22 and 2022/23 has been provided for side by side comparisons in this Poverty Fact Book update, however, it is important to recognise that the methodology was impacted between these two years and the face to face survey sample size was 50% smaller in  2021/2022. The DWP have advised caution when making year on year comparisons with data from 2020/21 and 2021/2022. Leeds City Council plan to provide options for longer term analysis into the Leeds Poverty Fact Book later in the year when the Fact Book is moved to a dashboard platform.

Child Poverty in the UK – Relative Child Poverty

Relative child poverty measures the number and proportion of children who are from households with incomes below 60% of the median average in that year.

The median income threshold is the mid-point income in the UK population, and means that half the population in the UK are earning the median income or less, and the other half earn that income or more. In 2022/23, the median household income in the UK was £621 per week, before housing costs were deducted from that income (BHC), and £545 per week, after housing costs were deducted (AHC).

60% of that median income is £373/week BHC and £327/week AHC.  Therefore, when discussing Relative Child Poverty BHC, the analysis represents the number of proportion of children from households earning £373 per week or less. When discussing Relative Child Poverty AHC, the analysis represents children from households earning £327 per week or less.

The number and proportion of children impacted by relative poverty are broken down below.

Table 2.1

All dependent children under the age of 20 2022/23 2021/22
No of Children in Relative Poverty in the UK BHC(m)      3,245,588      2,898,719
Children in Relative Poverty in the UK BHC % 22% 20%
No of Children in Relative Poverty in the UK AHC(m)      4,325,255     4,224,793
Children in Relative Poverty in the UK AHC % 30% 29%
Source: DWP, Households below average income (HBAI), March 2024

Latest figures show 3.2 million children experienced relative poverty before housing costs were deducted (BHC) during 2022/23 (22% of children in the UK).
Looking at relative poverty figures after housing costs (AHC) are deducted from income, there were 4.3 million children in relative poverty 2022/23 (30% of children in the UK).

REMINDER: The Leeds Poverty Fact Book will soon be moving to a dashboard platform to allow longer term trend analysis. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this survey, 2021/22 data is being displayed for reference purposes. Caution is advised in making year-on-year comparisons to 2020/21 and to 2021/22.  This is due to the smaller sample sizes and differing collection methods carried out for surveys during the lockdown period. 

Child Poverty in the UK – Absolute Child Poverty

Absolute child poverty measures the number and proportion of children who are from households with incomes below 60% of the median average in 2010/11, adjusted for inflation.

The median income threshold is the mid-point income in the UK population, and means that half the population in the UK are earning the median income or less, and the other half earn that income or more. In 2010/11, the median household income in the UK was £578 per week, before housing costs were deducted from that income (BHC), and £498 per week, after housing costs were deducted (AHC).

60% of that median income is £347/week BHC and £299/week AHC.  Therefore, when discussing Absolute Child Poverty BHC, the analysis represents the number and proportion of children from households earning £347 per week or less. When discussing Absolute Poverty AHC, the analysis represents children from households earning £299 per week or less.

The number and proportion of children impacted by absolute poverty are broken down below.

Table 2.2

All dependent children under the age of 20 2021/22 2021/22
No of Children in Absolute Poverty in the UK BHC(m) 2,636,358 2,249,170
Children in Absolute Poverty in the UK BHC % 18% 16%
No of Children in Absolute Poverty in the UK AHC(m) 3,625,118 3,307,134
Children in Absolute Poverty in the UK AHC % 25% 23%
Source: DWP, Households below average income (HBAI), March 2024

Latest figures show 2.6 million children experienced absolute poverty during 2022/23 before housing costs (BHC) were deducted from income (18% of children in the UK).
Looking at absolute poverty figures after housing costs (AHC) are deducted from income, there were 3.6 million children in absolute poverty AHC during 2022/23 (25% of children in the UK).

REMINDER: The Leeds Poverty Fact Book will soon be moving to a dashboard platform to allow longer term trend analysis. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this survey, 2021/22 data is being displayed for reference purposes. Caution is advised in making year-on-year comparisons to 2020/21 and to 2021/22.  This is due to the smaller sample sizes and differing collection methods carried out for surveys during the lockdown period. 

Children in working and workless households in relative poverty (UK estimates)

Table 2.3:

Economic status of household Total number of all children in the UK Children in Poverty

BHC

Children in Poverty

AHC 

No % No  %
At least one adult in work 12,615,794 2,148,471 17% 2,989,398 24%
Workless households 1,862,736 1,097,117 59% 1,335,857 72%
Total number of children 14,478,530 3,245,588 n/a 4,325,255 n/a
Source: DWP, Households below average income (HBAI), March 2024

The above table shows the total number of all children in the UK by economic status, as well as the number and percentage of children in poverty in each economic status group. A higher percentage of children in workless families are in poverty, compared to children in families where at least one adult is in work. However, when the total number of children in poverty is split, there are more children in poverty from households where at least one adult is in work.

In 2022/23, 72% of all children in workless families were in relative poverty AHC (affecting an estimated 1.3m children). In contrast, 24% of all children with at least one adult in work were in relative poverty (affecting an estimated 3m children).

Additional analysis of children in poverty based on household economic status:

Of the 3.2m children in poverty BHC, 2m are from a household with at least one adult in work, equating to 66%. 1.1m are from a household with no adults in work, equating to 34%.

Of the 4.3m children in poverty AHC, 3m of those are from a household with at least one adult in work, equating to 69%. 1.3m are from a household with no adults in work, equating to 31%.

This means that based on all children in poverty, both a higher number and percentage of children are from households where at least one adult is in work.

REMINDER: The Leeds Poverty Fact Book will soon be moving to a dashboard platform to allow longer term trend analysis. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this survey, 2021/22 data is being displayed for reference purposes. Caution is advised in making year-on-year comparisons to 2020/21 and to 2021/22.  This is due to the smaller sample sizes and differing collection methods carried out for surveys during the lockdown period. 

Child Poverty in Leeds : HMRC and DWP combined Local Measure – Children in Low-Income Families

The Children in Low-Income Families data contains annual official statistics on the number of children under 16 living in Relative and Absolute low income families BHC, by local area across the United Kingdom. These statistics replace earlier Official Statistics previously published by DWP (Children in out-of-work benefit households) and HMRC (Personal tax credits: Children in low-income families local measure). The new statistics provide a more coherent picture of children under 16 living in low income families by local area BHC.

The statistics are calibrated to the Households Below Average Income (HBAI) statistics. A full assessment of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on these statistics is available in the technical reports which should be considered alongside interpretation of these statistics.

While the data for 2022/23 has undergone extensive quality assurance prior to publication, DWP and HMRC recommend that users exercise additional caution when using the data for  2021/22 and 2022/2023, particularly when making comparisons with previous years and when comparing Leeds to the UK.

Due to this, data for 2021/22 has been provided for reference purposes and it is not advised to make comparisons with the new data released for 2022/23.  The Leeds Poverty Fact Book is moving to a dashboard platform later in the year, this will provide longer term data to allow options for longer term trend analysis.

Table 2.4:

Number & Percentage of children under 16 living in relative low income BHC

2022/23 2021/22
number % number %
UK 2,480,507 20% 2,473,462 20%
Leeds 33,482 22% 32,949 22%
Source: HMRC & DWP, Children in low income families: local area statistics, 2024

Latest figures show 20% of children under 16 were living in relative poverty BHC in 2022/23 in the UK (impacting 2.5 million children). In Leeds, 22% of children, (33,482) were living in relative poverty BHC.

REMINDER: The Leeds Poverty Fact Book will soon be moving to a dashboard platform to allow longer term trend analysis. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this survey, 2021/22 data is being displayed for reference purposes. Caution is advised in making year-on-year comparisons to 2020/21 and to 2021/22.  This is due to the smaller sample sizes and differing collection methods carried out for surveys during the lockdown period. 

Table 2.5:

Number & Percentage of children under 16 living in absolute low income BHC 2022/23 2021/22
number % number %
UK 1,958,856 16% 1,890,689 15%
Leeds 27,751 18% 25,759 17%
Source: HMRC & DWP, Children in low income families: local area statistics, 2024

Latest figures show 16% of children under 16 were living in absolute poverty BHC in 2022/23 in the UK (impacting 2 million children). In Leeds, 18% of children, (27,751) were living in relative poverty BHC.

REMINDER: The Leeds Poverty Fact Book will soon be moving to a dashboard platform to allow longer term trend analysis. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this survey, 2021/22 data is being displayed for reference purposes. Caution is advised in making year-on-year comparisons to 2020/21 and to 2021/22.  This is due to the smaller sample sizes and differing collection methods carried out for surveys during the lockdown period. 

Child Poverty in Leeds, After Housing Cost, Local Estimate

Every year the End Child Poverty Coalition, together with the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, publishes data on the number of children living in relative poverty after housing costs are deducted from income, for each Local Authority across the UK.

This measure is useful to look at alongside official Government estimates  because it provides an estimate for Leeds for children under 20, in relative poverty after housing costs.  This after housing cost measure is not published for local areas by Government as an official measure because there is no way of directly looking at AHC incomes from information held by the tax and benefit authorities, since only some people (notably those claiming Housing Benefit or the rent element of Universal Credit) need to report housing costs).

Table 2.6:

All dependent children under the age of 20 2021/22 2020/21
No of Children in Relative Poverty in Leeds AHC 55,780 58,775
Children in Relative Poverty in Leeds AHC % 31.3% 35.9%
No of Children in Relative Poverty in the UK AHC(m) 4.2m 3.9m
Children in Relative Poverty in the UK AHC % 29% 27%
Source:  End Child Poverty Report, Local Child Poverty Rates, AHC 2021/22 , June 2023 and DWP, Households below average income (HBAI), March 2023

This research uses the official poverty data from the DWP and HMRC alongside further administrative data and household surveys to estimate local area housing impacts. The research provides local child poverty estimates after housing costs to highlight the disposable income that families have available to meet their living costs. Latest figures show 55,780 children under 20 were living in relative poverty AHC in 2021/22, equal to 31.3% of children in Leeds, above the official national rate produced by the DWP of 29%

REMINDER: The Leeds Poverty Fact Book will soon be moving to a dashboard platform to allow longer term trend analysis. Due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this survey, 2021/22 data is being displayed for reference purposes. Caution is advised in making year-on-year comparisons to 2020/21 and to 2021/22.  This is due to the smaller sample sizes and differing collection methods carried out for surveys during the lockdown period. 

Free School Meals

The data in this table is a total of all school types – i.e. for state funded primary, secondary, special schools, Pupil Referral Units and Alternative Provision Academies and Free Schools. The data excludes all infant children who receive universal free school meals regardless of income.

Table 2.7

England Leeds England Change Leeds Change
2023 2022 2023 2022 2022-23 2022-23
Total Number of pupils 9,073,832 9,000,031 131,299 129,629 +73,801 +1,670
Number of pupils known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals 2,019,509 1,897,449 34,169 32,332 +122,060 +1,837
Percentage known to be eligible for and claiming free school meals 22.3% 21.1% 26.0% 24.9% +1.2pp +1.1pp
Source: DfE Schools, pupils and their characteristics, Jun 2023

In January 2023, 34,169  (26.0%) of pupils in Leeds were eligible and claiming a free school meal, up 1,837 pupils (up 1.1 percentage points) on the previous year. Nationally 22.3% of all pupils were eligible and claiming, up 1.2 percentage points.

Further information

Child Poverty

Relative and Absolute Child Poverty UK DWP official measure for the UK

The DWP’s Household Below Average Income (HBAI) report contains the official headline measure for all poverty figures for the UK, in particular the number of children in low-income families at a national level.

The HBAI is based on data from the Family Resources Survey in which the sample sizes are insufficient for useful analysis at the local level. In HBAI, median household income is calculated using the entire income distribution. The HBAI low-income threshold is then calculated by taking 60 per cent of this median.

The measure represents dependent children under the age of 20. A dependent child is defined as an individual aged under 16 or an individual aged 16 to 19 years who is:

  • not married nor in a Civil Partnership nor living with a partner; and
  • living with parents; and
  • in full-time non-advanced education or in unwaged government training

HMRC and DWP Combined Measure – Children in low income families measure

In 2020 the DWP & HMRC first released joint statistics ‘Children in low income families’. This local measure uses mid year estimates for population figures (ONS) and provides a picture of children in low income families for both Relative and Absolute measures, but only Before Housing Costs (BHC).

A family must have claimed one or more of Universal Credit, Tax Credits or Housing Benefit at any point in the year to be classed as low income in these statistics.
The count of children refers to the age of the child at 31 March of each year.

This measure only publishes the rate and number of children aged under 16 years. The estimate number of children aged 0-19 years is published online (Stat xplore), however rates for all children (aged 0 to 19years) have not been produced as an undetermined proportion of 16 to 19 year olds would not be treated as children for the purposes of these statistics.

Free School Meals

Free School Meals – in England, children in state-funded schools were entitled to receive free school meals if a parent or carer were in receipt of any of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Jobseekers Allowance
  • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
  • Support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • the guaranteed element of State Pension Credit
  • Child Tax Credit (provided they were not also entitled to Working Tax Credit and had an annual gross income of no more than £16,190, as assessed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs)
  • Working Tax Credit run-on – paid for 4 weeks after you stop qualifying for Working Tax Credit
  • Universal Credit – if you apply on or after 1 April 2018 your household income must be less than £7,400 a year (after tax and not including any benefits you get).

Entitlement to free school meals is determined by the receipt of income-related benefits. Since 1 April 2018, transitional protections have been in place which will continue to be in place during the roll out of Universal Credit. This has meant that pupils eligible for free school meals on or after 1 April 2018 retain their free school meals eligibility even if their circumstances change. The DfE state that this has been the main driver in the increase in the proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals as pupils continue to become eligible but fewer pupils stop being eligible.