08/05/2013 09:28 BST | Updated 08/05/2013 13:41 BST

Child Poverty Could Hit Four Million By 2020, Warns Economic Think-Tank

Four million children could be living in poverty in the UK by the end of the decade, new research has predicted.

The assessment by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the projected increases from 2010/11 to 2020/21 will reverse the reductions in child poverty rates witnessed in the previous decade.

Children deemed to be living in poverty are part of households that have an income below 60% of the national median.

poverty uk

An extra one million in poverty compared to today's numbers

The IFS examined rates using two indicators - the first relative to whatever the median income is predicted to be in a given year and the second (the absolute) measuring against what it was in 2010/11.

In the context of overall falling income levels since the start of the decade, the predicted relative increase in child poverty by 2020 was not as marked as the absolute rise, but both soared by more than a million (1.1 million and 1.4 million).

The IFS estimates that there are currently 2.7 million children living in poverty in the UK using the relative indicator and 3 million using the absolute measure.

The report predicted that the percentage of children experiencing poverty in 2020 will be 23.5 and 27.2 in relative and absolute terms respectively. That compares to respective official targets of 10% and 5%.

The study was commissioned by the Northern Ireland Executive to assess poverty levels in the region, but it also looked at the situation in the UK as a whole.

In Northern Ireland the problem appeared to be particularly acute with the predicted percentage of children experiencing poverty in 2020 much higher than the UK average forecasts at 29.7 and 32.9 in relative and absolute terms respectively.

The IFS report also predicted increased poverty rates among working-age non-parents across the UK in the same time frame.

The institute noted that its study was conducted prior to this year's budget and further updated projections would be made this summer.

The Child Poverty Action Group said the figures should prompt a government rethink on how to tackle the issue.

Alison Garnham, chief executive of the group, said: "We always put our children's needs first in family life, and we should do as a nation too. But today's dire projections reveal we are in danger of failing the next generation.

"The government has child poverty targets and a child poverty strategy because it knows poverty destroys life chances and generates huge costs to our economy.

"Today's figures must lead to a rethink of a strategy that not only isn't working but looks set to turn the child poverty problem into a child poverty crisis in the years ahead. As a result of the government's flawed strategy, over 1.1 million more children will be living in poverty by 2020-21.

"We need a child poverty strategy that contains policies which deliver on important issues such as job security, living wages and affordable housing for low income families. When the right policies aren't in place to help ensure family life is affordable, it's inevitable that children suffer.

"The security of our families and the progress of our children need to move to the top of the government's list of priorities. If children aren't put first, the threat of a child poverty crisis will become a reality."

Liam Byrne MP, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "The IFS' verdict is clear - by both internationally recognised measures, this government is set to plunge over a million children into poverty by the end of this decade, undoing all the good work of the last Labour government.

"Children are paying the price for a flatlining economy, falling living standards and soaring unemployment."