Child & Family Poverty

It is well evidenced that poverty is damaging to children, families and entire communities and that actions should be addressed through a clear strategy and targeted intervention. Tackling child and family poverty is critical to wider efforts with partners to deliver long-term objectives for prosperity and a better quality of life for all in Wirral. In order to address child and family poverty it is important to understand the extent and nature of Wirral needs, also what resources are available to tackle poverty issues. The latest JSNA and State of the Borough (see links below) on this page shows our local story of need in relation to some of the factors contributing to child and family poverty, and how local partners continue to develop joint approaches to tackling both causes and consequences of childhood poverty.

The most up to date information on child and family poverty can be found in our State of the Borough report. The two main measures of Child Poverty as shown on our State of the Borough report, are:

  • Children living in relative low income families: this is the more commonly used measure of child poverty, and is defined as families classed as having low income in that particular year, before housing costs, and who are in receipt of Child Benefit and at least one other household benefit such as Universal Credit, Tax Credits or Housing Benefit
  • Children living in absolute low income families: this measure of child poverty is defined as families classed as having low income in comparison with incomes in 2011, before housing costs, and who are in receipt of Child Benefit and at least one other household benefit such as Universal Credit, Tax Credits or Housing Benefit.


Most recent Joint Strategic Needs Assessment
Key Messages
  • The published data (up to August 2016) suggests that 12,920 children in Wirral are living in poverty (up to age of 20 years) which is a reduction from 16,665 in 2011 (HMRC, 2018)

  • This equates to 18.9% of all children in Wirral living in low income families,  reduction from 23.8% in 2011 (HMRC, 2018)

  • With 15 Wirral wards having a lower percentage of children living in low income families than the Wirral average (18.9%) and 13 Wirral Wards are lower than the England average (17.0%)

  • For England, that 2016 average is 17.0%, is an increase from 16.6% in 2015 though a reduction from 20.1% in 2011

  • All Wirral Wards (22) have seen a drop in the number and percentage of children living in poverty between 2011 and 2016

  • Yet there are very high concentrations of childhood poverty within Bidston and St. James, Birkenhead and Tranmere, Seacombe and Rock Ferry with at least 1 in 3 children living in poverty. These areas correlate strongly with other known deprivation markers

  • Heswall, Greasby, Frankby and Irby, Clatterbridge and Hoylake and Meols are all close to or below 5%, or less than 1 in 20 children living in low income families in 2016

  • This 1 in 20 figure, or approximately 5%, for children living in low income families of affluent areas of Wirral compares to around 40%, or 8 in 20 children in Bidston St. James, Birkenhead and Tranmere, Seacombe living in low income families (HMRC, 2018)

  • 2016 data suggests that Bidston and St James ward has 38.6% of the children’s population living in poverty compared to Heswall at 3.4%, or over 10x greater number of children living in low income families

  • Campaign to End Poverty data suggests that applying housing costs to poverty calculations in turn  highlights the actual and potential impact of in-work poverty happening to Wirral families

  • The key driver for child and family poverty is lack of sufficient income from parental employment, which restricts the amount of earnings a household has. This is not just about worklessness, but also working insufficient hours and/or low pay (HM Government, 2014).

  • For poor children growing up to be poor adults, the main driver is poor child educational outcomes, primarily through the influence on future employment outcomes and earnings.

  • 2016 data sees that the number of Wirral Lower Super Output Areas with more than 50% of children in low income families fall to 1 (Birkenhead East Float) though this still equates to 1 in 2 living in childhood poverty in the most disadvantaged areas (HMRC, 2018)

  • The highest ranked 10 Wirral Lower Super Output Areas for highest levels of children living in poverty have 5 areas within Bidston and St. James ward. (HMRC, 2018) 

  • Birkenhead East Float is the number 1 most employment deprived Lower Super Output Area in England in 2015, out of 32,844 Lower Super Output Areas (IMD, 2015) 

  • The number of households with 3+ children will drop nationally and locally but Wirral will still have the 3rd highest number in Cheshire & Merseyside

  • Wirral has a higher level of Lone Parent families than North West and England which can be linked to lost income for woman and children, as well as higher rates of worklessness

  • Average attainment for Wirral Children with and without access to Free School Meals (FSM) is high but a gap of 14 points exists between FSM (50) and non-FSM (36) and this could be more pronounced in less affluent areas of the borough.

  • Adult qualification levels compare favourably with other parts of Cheshire & Merseyside but still 8% of Wirral working-age adults have no qualification (NOMIS, 2016)

Previous JSNAs
Local supporting information
National Information
  • A new measure of poverty for the UK: the final report of the Social Metrics Commission (September 2018)
    The Social Metrics Commission (SMC) is an independent commission founded in 2016, which has brought together experts to develop a new approach to measuring poverty. Currently there is no agreed UK government measure of poverty and the SMC’s mission is to provide a new consensus around poverty measurement that enables action, informs policy making and so improves the lives of people in poverty, in real ways. The report reveals key findings such as the total number of people living in poverty is 14.2 million with the composition of poverty moving towards a better identification of children (4.5 million). 

  • Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2017
    This report examines changes in the distribution of household incomes in the UK, and the determinants and consequences of recent trends.

  • What explains the growth in 'never-worked' households? (Joseph Rowntree Foundation) (September 2015)
    The number of homes where no one has ever worked has doubled in little more than a decade. But is this a sign of growing ‘welfare dependency’ or the result of other factors? This report looks at the characteristics of ‘never-worked’ households and considers the possible reasons for the increase. It finds that most never-worked household are lone parent households and younger single people; there is little or no evidence of a problem of ‘intergenerational worklessness’. 

  • Child Poverty and Smoking (BMC: Public Health Journal) (June 2015)
    In 2011/12 approximately 2.3 million children, 17% of children in the UK, were estimated to be in relative poverty. This research suggests that 1.1 million children - almost half of all children in poverty - were estimated to be living in poverty with at least one parent who smokes with the report highlighting tobacco control interventions that effectively enable low income smokers to quit can play an important role in reducing the financial burden of child poverty.

  • Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s State of the nation 2014 report
    The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission’s second annual report assesses what the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments are doing on child poverty and social mobility, what progress is being made and what is likely to happen in the future. It also examines the role of employers, councils, colleges, schools, universities, parents and charities and makes a number of recommendations for action.