Figures from the latest report by Department for Work and Pensions suggest that many Pakistani and Bangladeshi children are living in poverty amid a mass shortage in the UK in every sector. The Prime Minister's promise to review the situation still remains unfulfilled.

Shefali Saxena Tuesday 11th January 2022 13:17 EST

A lot has changed in the UK’s economy in the past few months. A lot more is about to change, and the news doesn’t look promising. 

For instance, child benefit payments will rise by 3.1 per cent in April 2022, when the new tax year begins. Currently, there are two Child Benefit rates, one for the eldest child and another for your additional child or children. The rate for your eldest or only child is £21.15 per week which equates to £84.60 a month, or just over £1,000 a year. For each of your other children, it is £14 a week which equates to roughly £56 per month, or just over £700 a year. Will this be enough for a bright and healthy future for the children of Britain? 

Analysis of Department for Work and Pensions figures shows that when the Conservatives entered Government in 2010-11, there were just over 169,400 Indian children in poverty, out of 495,939. It reduced to 162 in 2019-2020 by 4 per cent, where 111 out of 597,356 children belonged to the community. 

However, figures suggest that in 2010-11 Pakistani children in poverty were 172,721 out of 348,675 total children from the diaspora. In 2019-20, it has increased by 88 per cent to 348,675 children in poverty out of 586,314. The Bangladeshi community, in 2010-11 had 82,971 children in poverty out of 137,089. Currently, it has seen a rise of 75 per cent, which is 145,511, out of 238,164 children.

Health inequalities between different ethnic groups

A November 2021 study from researchers at the Universities of Sussex and Manchester, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, revealed stark health inequalities between different ethnic groups that are influenced by persistent restrictions from life opportunities due to racism. 

The research found that at any age after 30, people from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds experience the worst health of any ethnic group, with rates of poor health that are equivalent to those of White people at least 20 years older. 

For example, 22% of White British women in their 80s report poor health – the same proportion as for women from Pakistani backgrounds in their 50s (23%). And the rate of poor health for women from Bangladeshi backgrounds in their 40s (14%) is equivalent to that of White British women in their 70s (14%).

Dr Laia Becares, Senior Lecturer in Applied Social Science at the University of Sussex and co-author of the study told the newsweekly, “Racism at the structural, institutional, and individual level leads to both poorer health and socioeconomic outcomes. Institutional racism in one sector or domain (e.g., education, the criminal justice system, urban planning) reinforces it in other sectors (e.g., employment, housing), forming a large, interconnected system that produces and maintains ethnic inequalities across and within generations. Equity-focused policy interventions that aim to reduce poverty improve the lives of minoritised ethnic groups over time and across generations are crucial, and we must also tackle racism, the fundamental cause of these inequalities.”

Rises in child poverty fuelled by benefit cuts 

A report by Community Care UK revealed that rises in child poverty fuelled by benefit cuts were associated with more than 10,000 more children being taken into care between 2015 and 2020. 

The research, which is currently being peer-reviewed, suggests 10,356 more children living in English local authority areas became looked after than would have been the case had poverty levels remained at 2015 levels.

It also estimates that almost 22,000 additional children were placed on child protection plans, and almost 52,000 began an episode of being in need, over the same timescale. The study found increases in both child poverty and children’s services interventions disproportionately affected poorer boroughs, particularly in the North East but also the North West, parts of the Midlands and some coastal areas further south. It said this placed a “double burden” of deprivation on these places.

Following this, despite the £4billion of targeted support that had already been put in place this winter, including means-tested energy bill discounts and help for those on Universal Credit, millions of families on modest incomes face bearing the brunt themselves. A Whitehall source told the media that the PM and Rishi Sunak were 'nowhere near' agreeing on a solution.

Serious child harm cases reported by councils rose by 20% 

According to an investigation by The Guardian, serious child harm cases reported by councils in England rose by nearly 20% during the first year of the pandemic, including a 19% rise in child death notifications.  Children aged under one accounted for 36% of notifications last year.

It called for the intervention of local authorities. The Local Government Association (LGA) called the rise “harrowing and a huge cause for concern”. It said extra pressure experienced by families during the pandemic may have fuelled the increase and said the abuse was more likely to have gone unseen “behind closed doors” during lockdowns.

Earlier last year, Daniel Willis, development finance campaigner at Global Justice Now, said, “There is a clear role for UK aid to playing in supporting the ‘global south’ during the pandemic and against climate change, but instead the government is chasing colonial post-Brexit fantasies.”

Too short of everything?

Food price inflation reached a 14-month high in October with the prices of favourite snacks such as crisps and soft drinks rising the most. Annual grocery price inflation reached 2.1% last month which is the highest since August 2020, according to grocery market analysts Kantar. 

A 5% rise in inflation was predicted for 2022 by the Bank of England. 

In 2022, importers will have to make full customs declaration when their merchandise enters the U.K., instead of the 175-day window they enjoyed following Brexit. The International Road Transport Union says about 20% of all trucking jobs remain open, despite rising wages.

Not to forget that Britain has recently reported a shortage of 100,000 health care staff, and to combat that, Britain has deployed 200 armed forces personnel who will join health workers in the capital, which has been particularly badly hit by the recent upsurge in coronavirus cases leading to mass staff absences in hospitals. 

The UK also continues to face a teaching staff shortage. Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, told the BBC that staff absences had been at “unsustainable” levels at some schools, with up to 25% of staff off in the week leading up to the Christmas break. 

Community comes together 

As a respite for some, the Muslim community has also put in efforts to alleviate poverty, by mentoring and educating children and awarding their endeavours to further inspire them despite their economic backgrounds.  

Asians are a powerhouse of economic activity and make immense contributions in all walks of life, not just Doctors and Engineers, but Lawyers, Broadcasters, Academics and Entrepreneurs. It’s perhaps the last that’s the most significant: almost 10% of economically active Indians are self-employed with employees. The likes of Brothers Sri and Gopi Hinduja are still at the top of the Asian Rich List, along with fellow siblings David and Simon Reuben, which speaks volumes about the combined spending power in the billions of pounds a year. 

Farhad Ahmad, an Imam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community told Asian Voice, “Within the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, its spiritual leader and Caliph continues to emphasise the need for our members to excel in education across the world, regardless of race or background.”  

In accordance with this, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has established thousands of schools, training initiatives, scholarships and mentoring schemes for students around the globe which have led to not only members of the Community but also thousands of others excelling in all fields of education. 

He added, “Every effort is made to promote education and to provide help and educational opportunities to underprivileged children or those who are deprived in any way to ensure they are able to reach their potential. In the UK, His Holiness awards prize to young Ahmadi Muslim men and women who excel in education. 

“The Community also runs free tuition lessons, youth training programmes for personal development and career guidance. It also trains its youth from the age of 7 in personal skills such as public speaking, team building and leadership. Under the direction of the Caliph, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has always maintained this strong focus on education based upon the teachings of Islam.”

As a part of the Better Health Campaign, families will be given support to help to improve the diets of their children through a new campaign as the new statistics reveal the number of parents giving unhealthy snacks to their children has increased during the pandemic. But what was the fate of those living under extreme poverty in the Asian community? Do they have even enough to fit the nutrition chart supplied by experts? 

It is important to note that most children from underprivileged backgrounds go to school, seeking at least one proper meal a day. While the pandemic was brutal to many despite the noble efforts of the Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and other ethnic minority institutions that provided free food packets and subsidies to economically backward households. It is difficult to say whether demands for Halal food at schools were met or not which has clearly suffered post-Brexit. 

Sharing footballer Marcus Rashford’s contribution in alleviating poverty among children, a spokesperson from FareShare UK said, “Support from Marcus Rashford MBE helped FareShare to more than double its food provision during 2020-21, and raise over £5m to provide food for millions of vulnerable children. During 2020/21 FareShare redistributed the equivalent of 132 million meals to vulnerable children, families and individuals – an average of four meals every second, and Marcus’ support led to an increase in the number of FareShare’s individual supporters 100 times, we’re extremely grateful for his support. Marcus remains a FareShare Ambassador, a role model for many and continues to campaign on child poverty.”

The Prime Minister had promised Marcus Rashford he will correct "unacceptable" free school meal hampers being delivered to eligible families back in January 2021. “The precise nature of any review was not immediately clear. Sources confirmed that he had thanked Rashford for highlighting issues around food parcels and agreed that the contents of the most controversial parcel were “completely unacceptable,” the Manchester United footballer had said. 

A year later, the precise nature of any review is still not clear, whether the PM has reviewed it or not. 

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