The impact of poverty

Poverty damages. It damages childhoods; it damages life chances; and it damages us all in society.
How poverty feels to children infographic

In 2013 a report estimated that child poverty costs the UK at least £29 billion each year.1 Of this £20.5 billion is a direct cost to government resulting from additional demand on services and benefits, as well as reduced tax receipts.


  • Children from poorer backgrounds lag at all stages of education.
  • By the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be, on average, nine months behind children from more wealthy backgrounds.
  • According to Department for Education statistics, by the end of primary school, pupils receiving free school meals are estimated to be almost three terms behind their more affluent peers.2
  • By 14, this gap grows to over five terms.
  • By 16, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE.


  • Poverty is also associated with a higher risk of both illness and premature death.3
  • Children born in the poorest areas of the UK weigh, on average, 200 grams less at birth than those born in the richest areas.
  • Children from low income families are more likely to die at birth or in infancy than children born into richer families.
  • They are more likely to suffer chronic illness during childhood or to have a disability.
  • Poorer health over the course of a lifetime has an impact on life expectancy: professionals live, on average, 8 years longer than unskilled workers.


  • Children living in poverty are almost twice as likely to live in bad housing. This has significant effects on both their physical and mental health, as well as educational achievement.4
  • Fuel poverty also affects children detrimentally as they grow up. A recent report showed the fuel gap has increased from was £256 in 2004 to £402 in 2009, and that low income families do sometimes have to make a choice between food and heating.5
  • Children from low income families often forgo events that most of us would take for granted. They miss school trips; can’t invite friends round for tea; and can’t afford a one-week holiday away from home.
  • While studies show that there are more play areas in deprived areas, their quality is generally poorer. Vandalism, playground misuse and danger of injury all act as deterrents to using what otherwise might be good facilities.6