Almost half of children of colour in England and Wales live in poverty

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Content Warning: This article contains reference to suicide.

Almost half of all children of colour in Wales and England are living in poverty right now, according to research from campaigning organisation the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). On top of that, new figures show the extent of the over-policing of kids of colour.

CPAG has recently released statistics saying that:

48% of children from black and minority ethnic groups live in poverty

In total, 4.2 million children in England and Wales are currently living in poverty. That’s 29% of young people. This is an increase of 350,000 since last year.

The highest possible price for poverty

CPAG also calculated that 450,000 fewer kids would be in poverty if child benefit was increased by just £10 a week. The group argued that the government should extend the provision of free school meals, and scrap the two-child cap. The cap means that families don’t receive any extra Child Tax Credit or Universal Credit if they have more than two children.

CPAG Chief executive Alison Garnham said in a statement:

Children pay the highest possible price for poverty – they pay with their health, their well-being and their life chances. Our research shows the country also pays a heavy financial price.

Black children are 11 times more likely to be strip-searched by police

On top of this, the UK’s systematic racism discriminates against children of colour in a whole multitude of additional ways. The same weekend as CPAG released its figures on child poverty, news broke of fresh findings that Black children are 11 times more likely to experience being strip-searched by police than their white peers. This reflects the massive over-policing that Black people have to endure in the UK.

The Children’s Commissioner found that police had strip-searched at least 2,847 children between 2018 and 2022. 38% of these children were Black, despite them making up less than 6% of the population.

The Canary previously reported how police strip-searched a Black schoolgirl, known as Child Q, while she was on her period. Cops and teachers carried out the search on the child because they were looking for cannabis. The Children’s Commissioner’s statistics show that Child Q was far from alone.

‘Withdrawing consent from policing’

The Canarys Sophie Purdy-Moore suggested some ways that we could protect children from degrading, unnecessary strip-searches. She wrote :

Teachers – don’t invite police onto school grounds. Police are not equipped to prevent harm or to deal with the complex social issues that impact children’s lives. Their job is to criminalise.

For the rest of us, this means resisting the presence of police in schools and intervening in every police stop we witness on the streets. It means withdrawing consent from all forms of policing. And it means demanding funding for specialist services that support vulnerable children and young people.

It’s not just in schools that Black kids have to endure degrading searches. Met police officers strip-searched Olivia, a 15-year-old dual-heritage autistic child at a London police station. Olivia was also on her period at the time of the strip-search. Four Met police officers are currently under investigation for the incident.

Both Olivia and Child Q experienced significant psychological harm as a result of these intrusive searches. Olivia made an attempt to take her own life following the incident.

These two sets of figures expose the racism at the heart of our society, and illustrate two of the ways it affects the lives of people of colour. Kids of colour are much more likely to face economic disadvantages. On top of that, they are forced to deal with the actions of a police force that is institutionally racist, too.

You can learn more about the grassroots campaign to end strip searches here, and also find out about CPAG’s campaign for teachers about ‘the cost of a school day’ here.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/Katie Crampton (WMUK), cropped to 770x403px, CC BY-SA 4.0

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