Story by Richard Belbin
A report issued last month from the End Child Poverty coalition of charities showed shocking levels of child poverty across the country. 87 council wards in the UK have a majority of children living in households defined as ‘in poverty.’ One of those is Burngreave. Meanwhile, across the city in Sheffield Hallam, only 10.5% of children live in such conditions.
A child is said to live in poverty if they are in a family living on less than 60% of median household income.
End Child Poverty are calling for an end to the freeze on social security benefits, saying that there is little doubt that the freeze is a major factor in an “emerging child poverty crisis”. They also voiced concerns that universal credit cuts will further impoverish low-income families in the coming years. The Child Poverty Action Group estimate that they will push a million more children into poverty. Being in work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty.
Almost two-thirds of children growing up in poverty live in a family where at least one member works.
Various measures have been taken to tackle child poverty across the city, but all too often, they deal with symptoms rather than causes. One such move, the ‘holiday hunger initiative’, was very successful where it was tried, with over two thousand children and parents being fed, but it was not run in Burngreave as the council were unable to find a provider able to do so. Hopefully this will change when the scheme is rerun this summer.
Local councillor and cabinet member for children, young people and families, Jackie Drayton, condemned the figures, and the government cuts that have led to them.
Speaking to the Messenger, Jackie outlined some of the key areas the council are trying to tackle to address the causes of poverty – supporting an advice service, including debt advice, creating apprenticeship and traineeship programmes, supporting adults to get back into work, funding early help for children and families and extra funding to develop and deliver emotional and mental health support for young people. She said:
“We try and tackle both the causes and symptoms of poverty but we can’t do everything. As local Councillors we support local organisations in our area that make a difference to many.
“But to be clear this Tory government’s austerity programme and benefit cuts are to blame, with women bearing the brunt. We must continue to campaign against that austerity.”