Child poverty in Bristol has a significant impact on outcomes for children and young people. Availability of data to measure this indicator is sparse and still being developed nationally, so we resort here to providing a range of different data sources, each of which can shed some light on the impacts of poverty on Bristol’s children today. This selection of data is by no means exhaustive, and comments are welcomed on how we can improve and refine these measures.
In total, in 2008, it was estimated that around 21,900 (or 27%) children live in poverty in Bristol, 19,700 of these were aged under 16. These figures are significantly higher than the regional (15.8%) and national (20.9%) averages . As an overall proportion of all children living in poverty in England, almost 1% live in Bristol (0.94%).
Map 1. Proportion of children living in poverty in Bristol (2007)
These figures are not evenly distributed across Bristol. Wards like Stoke Bishop and Henleaze have incidences of child poverty below 4%, whereas Lawrence Hill has almost 60% of its children living in poverty, putting it in the bottom percentile of all wards nationally (see table below). Almost 2,300 children in Lawrence Hill live in poverty.
Children in Poverty by Ward.
Three quarters of Bristol’s impoverished children live in lone-parent households: around 16,500. This proportion is greater than the average across our statistical neighbours or the core cities.
Also, over half of children in poverty live in households where the youngest child is under the age of five (see table below). Again, Bristol has relatively more children in this category than any of its comparators, and may suggest that poverty will be harder to eradicate here than elsewhere.
Characteristics of households with children living in poverty
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The Developing Picture
As the economic conditions worsen, it is expected that the picture described above will become more bleak. In an effort to estimate the likely changes in the profile of child poverty since the 2008 data was released, we have turned to the Free School Meals (FSM) dataset. Parents of children in low-income families can apply for free school meals, and this measure is often used as a proxy for deprivation. In 2008, 10,500 Bristol children were eligible for free school meals- nearly half the number of those who were deemed to be living in poverty. This suggests that substantial numbers of families who could benefit from school meals are currently not receiving them.
Nevertheless, the data can be used to predict likely changes in the prevalence of child poverty between 2008 and the present. Across Bristol, the granting of FSM status has increased from 21.5% in 2008 to 22.9% in 2010. Furthermore, the geographical pattern of this increase suggests that child poverty is spreading outwards from core areas and enveloping more of the city. Map 2 below demonstrates this encroachment in detail. It is expected that both the absolute numbers of FSM claimants and the spread outwards in to the centre and north of the city will continue to increase over the next few years.