1 in 3 Ipswich youngsters living in poverty before Covid-19, new data finds
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More must be done to address child poverty in Ipswich, a Suffolk council leader has admitted - after fresh figures revealed one in three youngsters were living in poverty before Covid-19.
Latest data published by the End Child Poverty Coalition found that 9,604 youngsters in Ipswich were living in poverty - households on less than 60% of the average UK income - in the year up to the end of March 2020, once housing costs had been considered.
That is just over 34% of youngsters in Ipswich.
While that number was slightly down on the 10,494 the year prior, it represents a 5.4% increase on the proportion living in poverty in 2014/15.
It is also higher than the East of England average of 26% and the England average of 30%.
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In East Suffolk and Babergh, more than one in four children were considered to be living in poverty at 27.2% and 25.4%, while in Mid Suffolk and West Suffolk it was more than one in five - 22.2% and 21.7% respectively.
Matthew Hicks, Conservative leader at Suffolk County Council, agreed that more must be done.
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“Suffolk County Council has a statutory duty to develop a child poverty reduction strategy and are currently working with individuals, families and organisations to understand what action we need to take," he said.
"This will form the new all age poverty reduction plan.
“Over the last few years the council has been working to ensure families are aware of how to apply for Free School Meals provision and we have actively encouraged uptake to ensure children have access to school meals during the school day.
“Furthermore, we have been promoting the Healthy Start Voucher scheme among families to increase uptake and for the last two years and indeed this year, the council and partners have provided food and activities during school holidays for families.
“The full extent of the impact Covid has had on families remains unknown, but we are continually reviewing the evidence that we do have around the impact of Covid and we have seen an increase in foodbank usage.
"As such, we have been making sure our foodbanks have enough food to meet demand.
"Other programmes of work have included developing the Suffolk Advice and Support line to help people access the financial and emotional support they need during this time.
“The End Child Poverty report is stark and shows we have a lot more work to do to help reduce poverty.”
Financial support to date included £250,000 to foodbanks via Fareshare and £3.3million in winter grant funding, according to the authority.
The report has prompted End Child Poverty to call on the government not to cut Universal Credit and urged it to develop a coherent plan to address the problem.
Last summer, Jack Abbott, former Labour councillor at the county council who is now a campaigner for children's services, secured unanimous backing for a pledge to create a food poverty action plan, expected to be published later this year.
He said efforts needed to address the root causes of the issue.
“A devastating cocktail of unrelenting government cuts, a rise in the cost of living and the stagnation of wages have left more than one in three of Ipswich’s children in poverty, " he said.
"With unemployment climbing rapidly over the past year, we know the situation is even worse now for thousands of families.
“It is crucially important that the government reverses its plans to cut Universal Credit, and we need a permanent and long-term strategy for alleviating hunger, particularly in the school holidays.
“However, the government needs to also get to grips with the root causes of poverty itself by delivering well-paid, secure employment; building truly affordable housing and driving down the cost of living; investing properly in our education system and removing the barriers that face children from poorer backgrounds."