Northern cities dominate poverty tables but South faces ‘hidden black spots’

Northern cities are home to the highest numbers of vulnerable children and families but southern and coastal areas are facing “hidden” poverty, analysis shows.

The cities in the North of England, Midlands and Scotland which have the highest numbers of families in crisis – defined as being on a very low income and dealing with complex social issues – include Sheffield, Birmingham, Leeds, Glasgow and Bradford, according to an analysis of 10 years of applications to the grant-giving charity Buttle UK.

However, the map also reveals the “black spots” where high levels of deprivation are being recorded officially by the Office for National Statistics but where there are a low number of grant applications, indicating that such areas, especially in the south and on the coast, are grappling with unseen child poverty, the charity’s inaugural Crisis Points report says.

In the most afflicted regions, including Wales, Yorkshire and the Humber, Scotland and the North East of England, more than five in 100 families are receiving grants from Buttle UK.

The breakdown of applications reveals lone parents account for nearly two-thirds of crisis cases (63%) and almost half of families who apply (44%) lack basic material needs such as beds, washing machines, cookers, fridge freezers and children’s clothing.

Application numbers spike during summer months as families feel the pressure of not having school support and free meals, the report says.

The analysis by Mayhew Harper Associates compared the most common factors appearing in Buttle UK grant applications and then used corresponding official data to compare predicted levels of applications with actual numbers.

The gaps, indicating risks of “hidden poverty'”, are largely based in unexpected areas such as southern counties including Berkshire and Hampshire, as well as coastal areas.

Almost two in every three families receiving Buttle UK grants survive on less than £10,000 a year excluding benefits, with most having an annual income of between £6,000 and £13,000 a year.

The report also identifies five “main drivers of family crisis” – parental problems with physical or mental health, learning difficulties or an inability to cope (56% of grants), children with health or development issues (17%), young people facing estrangement or isolation (15%), children with behavioural or emotional problems (7%) and abuse or neglect (5%).

Buttle UK chief executive Gerri McAndrew said: “In undertaking this level of analysis and extrapolation on 10 years of our data, we have produced information that has never been collected or collated before – data that normally sits in silos within official records.

“Crisis Points shows us that there are worrying gaps around the country where children in often desperate situations are not having their needs met.

“We are determined to highlight these areas where vulnerable families and children are under the radar so we can reach them and enable them to achieve their potential by having the essentials in place.”

Professor Les Mayhew, the managing director of Mayhew Harper Associates, said: “It is the first time that such data has been compiled and analysed in one place and provides immense insight which can be used in many ways – not least for targeting need, spotting emergent social issues or trends, or testing associations between risk factors such as child neglect, drug and alcohol abuse and poverty.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2016, All Rights Reserved.