The Crisis is accelerating financial and educational inequality
By MATTHEW PARKES: POLITICAL Columnist
The economic consequences of COVID-19 have been profound and wide-ranging, particularly for those already impoverished. It’s impact on child poverty has been particularly well publicised as a result of the efforts of Marcus Rashford among others.
Existing socio-economic concerns have been exacerbated, leading to a widening of inequality gaps during the pandemic. Karl Handscomb, an economist from the Resolution Foundation, stated that “For high-income adults, spending reductions have in many cases left family budgets in a better place overall. But that has not been the case for low-income adults, who have instead experienced deteriorating finances.”
This report follows a surge in the use of food banks during 2020. In the six months leading to September there was a 47% increase in their use, which amounts to 1.2 million parcels being given out by the Trussell Trust during this period.
Moreover, the Resolution Foundation report also details that 30% of those experiencing a decrease in income have experienced difficulties in financing basic household amenities such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
The large discrepancy between how income groups are dealing with the pandemic may in fact illuminate wider systemic concerns within British society. Whilst COVID-19 may have caused an extraordinary amount of stress on the financial situation of millions of households in the UK, underlying issues such as child poverty and low-unstable incomes have been bubbling under the surface for years.
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In the six months leading to September there was a 47% increase in the use of foodbanks, which amounts to 1.2 million parcels being given out…
Pre-COVID in 2018-2019, the Department of Work and Pensions announced that 30% of children were living below the poverty line. This means that they were living in a household with an income of less than £17,760. This year’s statistics have clearly yet to be announced, but perhaps when they are it will be a watershed moment for child poverty, as the Government and the public awake to the scale of the problem.
Gordon Brown, a former Labour Prime Minister, has long been vocal about issues surrounding child poverty. Speaking last month he warned that this statistic will rise to above five million children. He characterised this as a “national crisis”.
Child Poverty, even before the pandemic hit, had a significant impact on education attainment and mental health. Those living under the poverty line are 4.5 times more likely to have developed severe mental health disorders by the time they are 11 years old and are less likely to get 5 A* to C GCSE’s than their wealthier counterparts. Moreover, with schools closing and a significant portion of education being provided digitally, those from socio-economic backgrounds are going to fall even further behind.
The government has recently U-turned on its position of not providing additional funding for free-school meals, now pledging £400 million to help councils to support families this winter. Whilst welcome, it is clearly only a temporary measure. When the dust settles, the country will face a larger crisis of reducing inequality and finding longer term solutions for a society which disadvantages such a high proportion of this country’s children.