One in eight children in Dorset lived in poverty in the first full year of the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.
Child poverty charities are warning that the government’s response to the cost of living crisis risks reversing the decline in the number of children living below the subsistence level in the UK.
Data from the Department for Work and Pensions shows that 7,307 children under the age of 16 lived in low-income families in 2020-21, around 12.3% of all young people in the region.
That was down from 12.8% the previous year, and less than the 13% in 2014-15, when comparable figures were first released.
A family is defined as low income if it earns less than 60% of the national median household income before housing costs are taken into account.
Families are included in the figures if they applied for Child Benefit alongside other means of support, such as Universal Credit, tax credits or housing allowances, at some point in the year.
Different figures – which take housing costs into account – show that 3.9million UK children lived in relative poverty in 2020-21.
That was down from 4.3 million the previous year, but still above the 3.6 million in 2010-11 – a decade earlier.
The Child Poverty Action Group said this autumn shows the UK government has the power to protect children from poverty.
But Alison Garnham, chief executive of the charity, said: ‘Many of the children who have been lifted out of poverty by the £20 Universal Credit boost have already been pushed back to the brink by the actions of the government.
“And as millions of people struggle with spiraling costs, we know it’s going to get worse.”
Of children aged 0-15 living in poverty in Dorset last year, 2,001 (27%) were under five.
There were also 1,973 young people aged 16 to 19 in low-income families.
Meanwhile, the majority of young people aged 0-19, 78%, were from working households.
Action for Children said the government risked failing in its overt commitment to reduce child poverty and forcing millions of families into years of “miserable hardship” without further action.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns for the organisation, said: “As prices continue to rise, more low-income parents who were on the verge of managing could go bankrupt, without any advice, any trick or no hack to increase their income during the month. .
“In addition to the current cost of living crisis, many families with children are still reeling from the October £20 a week cut on Universal Credit.”
The Department for Work and Pensions said data should be treated with caution, particularly from previous years, due to changes in data collection during lockdowns which have affected the size and composition of the sample.
A government spokesman said the landscape is different now than it was during the pandemic and filling the record number of vacancies is the best way out of poverty.
He added that the UC changes mean claimants from some working households are better off on average by £1,000, the minimum wage rises to £9.50 from April 1 and National Insurance will be removed for more than 30 million people from July.