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75% of children living in poverty in Elmbridge are in working families

A single parent with two children would need to be earning over £45,000 a year to cover the cost of living in Elmbridge, according to new analysis by the New Economics Foundation

75% of children living in poverty in Elmbridge are in working families according to new analysis by the New Economics Foundation (NEF). A single parent with two children would have to be earning over £45,000 a year (in the top 50% of earners locally) to cover the cost of essentials like household bills or a trip to the dentist in Elmbridge.

The research uses the Minimum Income Standard (MIS), which is the UK’s leading approach to measuring living standards based on need and is used to calculate the​‘real’ Living Wage paid by companies like Ikea and KPMG, and football clubs like West Ham, Liverpool, and Everton.

Using data specific to Elmbridge and the south-east on housing and childcare costs, NEF’s analysis examines the annual income needed to meet this standard in Elmbridge for different household types.

The research found that for a single adult to reach their MIS, they need to be earning over £31,000 a year, more than £6,000 higher than the level needed to meet the MIS elsewhere in the country. This leaves over 30% of single adult earners in Elmbridge unable to afford the cost of living. For a couple with two children, both parents need to be earning over £25,000 a year to afford the cost of living in Elmbridge. Nationally, this is £20,000 a year.

Borough-wide, there are fewer low-income residents than in other areas of England, but the research shows that Elmbridge has pockets of poverty, and the situation has worsened in recent years. For example, in 2021 15% of children in the Mosley West ward of Elmbridge were living in relative poverty (a 4% increase since 2015), compared with 6.5% (a 1.7% increase since 2015) across the borough.

The analysis cites the high cost of essentials in Elmbridge, such as housing and childcare, as placing extra pressure on families already struggling to make ends meet. Average house prices are over 14 times average earnings, and the average rent on a two-bedroom property is over 40% more than the national median. The cost of a weekly nursery place in the south-east is around £30 more than the national average.

The report sets out several recommendations for how local organisations can help tackle poverty and inequality in Elmbridge, including:

  • Offering tops ups to government subsidies for childcare where they don’t meet the actual cost of provision
  • Providing funding and space for socially driven childcare services for low-income families
  • Developing employability and skills training schemes for residents
  • Exploring the possibility of a Surrey Living Wage to account for the higher cost of living in boroughs like Elmbridge

Sam Tims, economist at the New Economics Foundation, said:

Even in a borough described as the Beverly Hills of Britain’ there is an increasing level of poverty and disadvantage under the surface. With the soaring cost of essentials far outstripping average wages and income support, the inequality between some of this country’s wealthiest and low-income families in Elmbridge is stark.”

On a local level, additional measures like funding for affordable childcare and upskilling schemes could help support the residents that need it most. But on the national level, this government should act now to ensure everyone can access a comfortable home, a well-paid job and good quality public services, knowing that an adequate social security system will provide support to fall back on when times are hard.”


Becky Malone /​07925950654 /​


The New Economics Foundation is a charitable think tank. We are wholly independent of political parties and committed to being transparent about how we are funded.

The report, Under the radar: Exploring the changing picture of poverty and low income in the Surrey borough of Elmbridge, will be available at https://​newe​co​nom​ics​.org/​2​0​2​2​/​1​0​/​u​n​d​e​r​-​t​h​e​-​radar

This research was commissioned by Walton Charity, a local charitable foundation committed to building an Elmbridge community free from poverty where everyone can thrive. Walton Charity has a long history of working with its community and partners to tackle issues of poverty and inequality, homelessness and isolation across Elmbridge. Find out more at www​.wal​ton​char​i​ty​.org​.uk

We analysed national and local statistics to build a picture of local poverty trends. We also descriptively assessed the drivers of poverty in Elmbridge by reviewing data on wages from employment, hours worked, benefits claimed, and the cost of living.

We engaged with a sample of residents in one-to-one, in-depth interviews on their perceptions of the drivers and consequences of poverty and what support is needed. Case studies are available from the following participants:

  • Kelly, a single parent struggling with juggling work and care due to expensive childcare costs in Elmbridge
  • Jane, a parent whose household income isn’t keeping up with the rising cost of living

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