Child stacking colour blocks into a tower

Closing the gap

Building better child poverty prevention systems

The UK has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty for developed countries. 29% of all children in the UK  live in poverty. This should be a source of national shame in one of the world’s most advanced countries but seems to be accepted as part of our society. These rates are increasing as a result of cuts and under-investment in prevention, a paucity of child poverty strategy and policies, and a punitive welfare system. It has been further worsened by the cost-of-living crisis. ​ 

The impacts of growing up in poverty can be long-lasting, affecting children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development. It usually results in lower access to quality education, leading to lower academic achievement, and challenges in acquiring essential skills and knowledge. Emotionally, children experience heightened stress and anxiety due to unstable living conditions, which can have lasting effects on their mental health and social-emotional development. Given this picture of entrenchment, inequality, and systemic failure, reversing these trends and preventing millions more children growing up in poverty will require not just a transformative level of investment, but a whole system transformation.  ​ 

This report, Closing the Gap, highlights what an effective system of child poverty prevention looks like, from the services provided to the principles underpinning our relationships.  

It also sets out the key levers for change: recommended areas for investment by funders and philanthropists that have the potential to accelerate the transition to a more effective system of child poverty prevention in the UK. 

This report draws on analysis commissioned by the Ethos Foundation, using an evidence review and workshops with policy experts, researchers, organisation leaders, charity professionals and funders from a range of relevant fields to understand where the current system was failing, and what an effective system of child poverty prevention might look like.  

You can explore Closing the Gap through its Executive Summary, an interactive online model hosted on Kumu, an associated presentation, or through the full PDF download. 

An open invitation to collaborate

We invite you to share in this journey, as we hope to share in yours.

You can get involved by:

  • Attending our launch and other subsequent events: Contact for further information.
  • Sharing this report with peers: start a conversation with funders and charities working in child poverty by sharing this report and beginning to consider the implications for your work.
  • Letting us know your thoughts: this systems analysis has been a collective, open process and we are keen that it continues to evolve in response to feedback and learning. If you have
    questions, concerns, or want support in considering the implications of this report for your work, please get in touch.
  • Taking the first step: begin working through the steps outlined above that are required to embed a systems approach in the child poverty sector, starting with shared strategy setting. This may begin with internal conversations about the implications of the ecosystem model for your work, or external conversations about how collaboration might allow stakeholders in your area to deliver more impact than the sum of their parts.

For more information about this work and how you can be part of changing child poverty prevention systems, contact either Seth Reynolds, Principal: Systems Change at NPC or Grant Gordon OBE, Founder & Chair of Ethos Foundation.


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