Why this week's child poverty figures help explain last's budget

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For a Prime Minister who walked into Downing Street decrying the ‘burning injustice’ of poverty and contrasting the opportunities available to some children but not others, there was a disappointing omission in last week’s budget: child poverty.

Poverty was not mentioned once in the Chancellor’s Budget Statement. Nor in the ‘Red Book‘ which sets out the Government’s plans in more detail.

The publication of child poverty projections for the next five years, by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, may explain why. They suggest that the 200,000 rise in the official child poverty figures published last summer (for 2014-15) is the beginning of a sharp and sustained increase in child poverty.

Since 2010, child poverty has risen from 3.6m (after housing costs) to 3.9m and, according to these new IFS projections, is set to rise to 5.1m by 2022. If borne out, such a rise, as experts in our new life chances book make clear, would have profound consequences on childhoods, life chances and our society.

Tomorrow (Thursday), at 9.30 am, the official child poverty statistics – known as Households Below Average Income - for 2015-16 are published. The IFS projections suggest the official figures may show a relatively small rise in child poverty but given these statistics are based on survey data it is perfectly possible that they remain unchanged, or even fall (but still remain far too high for one of the richest countries in the world).

The key point to remember is that although the figures out tomorrow provide a new data point, it’s the trend we should be focusing on. And the trend, say the experts, is bending towards rising child poverty and burning injustice.