More than 20 per cent of children in Plymouth are in poverty, report finds
MORE than 20 per cent of children in Plymouth are now living in poverty, according to an annual report.
The End Child Poverty campaign has found that 21 per cent of children in the area covered by Plymouth City Council are living below the poverty line – a slight rise from last year's figure of 20 per cent and above the national average of 20.2 per cent.
Plymouth has one of the highest rates in the South West, behind Bristol (25 per cent) and Torbay (22 per cent).
There is a marked contrast when the figures are divided by constituency. Plymouth Moor View and Plymouth Sutton and Devonport both have a quarter of children living in poverty, with just eight per cent in South West Devon and 15 per cent in South East Cornwall.
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Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, told The Herald the figures were "scary".
"It is rising and it's continuing to rise," she said. "We struggled very hard under the last Labour government to get child poverty down. We were doing quite well – and then the recession hit.
"This means that in a class of 28 children in my constituency, seven of them are going to be below the poverty line.
"There are all sorts of reasons. The costs of living are going up, food costs are going up."
Ms Seabeck added: "When I am knocking on doors people are saying 'Why is this Government doing this to people like us?'
"I can't get through a surgery without having somebody in tears. They are trying really hard, working long hours trying to improve their lives and the lives of their children and are getting nowhere."
Cllr Chris Penberthy, council member for co-operatives and community development, said: "Sadly these figures do not come as a surprise. We know from our work that many children living in poverty have an unequal start in life and will become part of a perpetual cycle where they are less likely to achieve their academic potential or secure jobs as adults.
"They are also more likely to experience a range of health inequalities throughout their lives.
"We must urgently tackle child poverty. All of society will ultimately benefit."
Cllr Penberthy added: "It's likely that child poverty will increase in the short-term due to huge changes to the welfare system currently being introduced for many of the city's poorest households.
"The Government is making fundamental changes to the way welfare assistance is provided including the local housing allowance and tax credits, as well as reducing the number of families receiving child benefit. Our ultimate aim is to reduce child poverty to 10 per cent by 2020."
A final version of Plymouth City Council's child poverty strategy, currently in draft form, is due to go before Cabinet in April.
CHILDREN in poverty in Plymouth (council area): 21 per cent
Children in poverty in Plymouth Moor View constituency: 25 per cent
Children in poverty in Plymouth Sutton and Devonport constituency: 25 per cent.
Children in poverty in South West Devon constituency: 8 per cent
Children in poverty in South East Cornwall constituency: 15 per cent
UK council areas with highest levels of child poverty: Tower Hamlets (42 per cent), Manchester (40 per cent), Middlesborough (34 per cent)
UK council areas with lowest levels of child poverty: Sheffield Hallam (5 per cent), Kenilworth and Southam (5 per cent), South Northamptonshire (5 per cent)