Child poverty figures are 'profoundly disturbing'By Amy Taylor
March 04, 2013
POVERTY levels among children are ‘profoundly disturbing’, as the gap between the rich and poor grows in villages in Hampshire and Surrey.
Figures released by the End Child Poverty campaign highlight wildly varying levels of deprivation around the UK last year, including the so-called wealthy areas of the south east.
At least 10% of children are living under the breadline in each local authority in the News & Mail area, with figures ranging from 10% – 2,627 children – in Waverley borough to 16% in Rushmoor, equivalent to 3,359 children.
The worst levels of child poverty were in Tower Hamlets, which has 42%, equivalent to 23,837 children. One of the lowest levels was in Richmond where only 2,686 children, or 7%, were in poverty.
In the News & Mail area the picture is more bleak, with some wards facing nearly 30% poverty, a figure many councillors are blaming on increasing financial pressures on low-income families.
A family’s income needs to be less than 60% of the average UK earnings, which varies according to inflation, to be considered ‘under the breadline’ and classed as living in poverty.
In Surrey Heath, despite a comparatively low child poverty rate of 11% overall, which takes into account Camberley, Frimley and St Paul’s wards, a figure of 28% has been recorded for the ward of Old Dean.
In Rushmoor, Cherrywood (formerly Mayfield) ward in Farnborough has 27% child poverty, while North Town in Aldershot follows closely with 19%.
In Hart, Frogmore and Darby Green ward – as well as Yateley East – have a higher than average rate, as does Ash Wharf ward in Guildford, which has 23% poverty compared to a local average of 13%.
Rodney Harward, councillor for Frogmore and Darby Green, said the 2012 figures could not purely be blamed on austerity measures, but added: “I’ve never seen any country get out of recession by making the poor poorer.
“We are told repeatedly that we are one of the most affluent areas in the country and yet Hart has just opened its third foodbank. It’s the injustice that annoys me.”
He said the increasing levels of child poverty in Hart were ‘profoundly disturbing’, and that the fact that ‘our most disadvantaged’ still relied on a foodbank to survive was something ‘we should be ashamed of’.
“We need to break the cycle,” he added. “We should be teaching general housekeeping and financial bookkeeping and a more interesting form of domestic science so that families know how to feed themselves.
“By cutting benefits and increasing tax we are just punishing the children, and we are not giving them the best start in life.”
Old Dean councillor Rodney Bates is leader of the opposition at Surrey Heath Borough Council, which has just approved a council tax benefit scheme. It will see claimants who previously paid no contribution, charged £380 a year from April 1.
He said: “We are imposing this very punitive measure which is not going to address issues of child poverty.
“The first thing to do is for councils to really prioritise where areas of need are, particularly things like working with churches and children’s centres to make sure we are understanding the issues people are faced with.
“Quite often families have a negative experience of agencies, and instead they trust their GP or the vicar. We can control what we spend as a local council and as local services, and the focus really needs to be on that group of people.
“We talk around the subject, but I’m not sure we do as much as we could.”