The parts of the West Midlands that have the most children living in poverty have been exposed – amid fears that the cost-of-living crisis will only push more families to the brink. In Sparkbrook South, Birmingham, more than two-thirds of children are classified as being in poverty, more than anywhere else in the region.
It is closely followed by neighboring Sparkbrook North, making the area the city’s poverty capital. That comes as struggling families struggle to keep up with sky-high household spending after energy bills and a host of other fees have risen this month.
There are fears about how those who barely kept their heads above water, as it were, will cope, and a police chief even suggests that desperate parents could turn to prostitution and steal. A whopping 67% of children are below the poverty line in Sparkbrook South, the latest figures show, and 63% in Sparkbrook North.
READ MORE: ‘I may have to turn to crime’ – Life in the area with the most benefits as the cost of living crisis bites
Saltley East, Lozells East and Aston Park also have high levels of child poverty, with the figure for each of these areas 61%. In the black country, Palfrey in Walsall has the most children living in poverty with 53%.
The data were recorded in March 2021, meaning that poverty levels may be even higher now that families have been hit by soaring costs. The poorest also have to deal with a real cut in benefits, with inflation exceeding increases in their payments.
Birmingham Live visited Sparkhill earlier this month to see how people in the area with the highest number of beneficiaries in the region coped with the cost-of-living crisis.
Last year, there were 113,675 children in Birmingham living below the bread limit and a further 92,021 in the black country. Prior to the pandemic, the number of children in the West Midlands living in poverty had increased year on year, after rising from 86,299 in Birmingham and 66,570 children in the black country in March 2015.
This means that almost one in three children in the region lived in poverty last year – but in some areas the situation is even harsher.
Birmingham – most children in poverty
- Sparkbrook South – 67%
- Sparkbrook North – 63%
- Saltley East, Lozells East and Aston Park – all 61%
- Bordesley Green North, Washwood Heath, Lozells West, Small Heath Park – all 60%
- Bordesley – 59%
Black country – most children in poverty
- Palfrey, Walsall – 53%
- Smethwick South – 46%
- Greetings Green East, West Bromwich and Walsall West – both 45%
- Smethwick North and West and Smethwick East – both 44%
- Kates Hill, Dudley – 43%
The shares are estimates based on DWP figures for the number of children living in families with a household income of less than 60% of the UK average per capita. March 2021, and population estimates from the Office for National Statistics from mid-2020. Meanwhile, the figures also suggest that work is not a reliable way out of poverty – 66% of the children who lived below the bread limit in the West Midlands last year had at least one working parent.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, said: “These figures show the chancellor’s actions to increase incomes at the start of the pandemic lifted hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty, but the Treasury’s relative passivity to help families make incomes today’s cost of living crisis is likely to see any progress lost and child poverty rise again.
“As prices continue to rise, more low-income parents we support who were just getting by may go under, with no tips, tricks or hacks left to stretch their income over the month. Our new research shows that nearly half (47%) of the children we surveyed, from low-income backgrounds, worry about their family’s finances, as struggling parents have to decide whether to put food on the table or heat their homes.
“In addition to the current cost of living crisis, many families with children are still forced by the October cut of £ 20 a week to Universal Credit.”
A government spokesman said: “Recent figures show that there were fewer children in poverty and as work is the best way out of poverty, it is right that we focus on filling the record number of vacancies. We continue to to provide comprehensive support to help families with the cost of living, supported by over £ 22 billion in targeted investment to help low-income households. “