Child poverty is rising in Suffolk and north Essex according to a new study with 50,000 youngsters affected
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More than 50,000 children in Suffolk and north Essex are growing up in poverty, a hard hitting new study reveals as community leaders warn the escalating problem needs to be taken seriously.
The nationwide analysis, published this week by the End Child Poverty coalition of charities, suggests there are now constituencies in the UK where more children are living below the breadline than above it.
It also ranks the areas with the lowest child poverty rates, and compared with the rest of the nation Suffolk and north Essex are not at either end of the scale, occupying middle ground.
But what the statistics, retrieved in September 2017, do reveal is the scale of the issue in the region.
In the Suffolk constituencies of Ipswich and Waveney, almost 30% of children were considered to be living in poverty.
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In total, 33,064 youngsters across the county are said to be affected.
Ipswich MP Sandy Martin said he is not surprised by the findings.
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He added: “It is not a surprising figure for Ipswich, but it is an indication of the low wages that so many families are earning. The attitude and behaviour of the county council is not helping the issue, especially with them closing children’s centres and facilities relied on by the most vulnerable families.
“It is about time that the government and the county council started taking child poverty seriously.”
Stephen Singleton, chief executive of the Suffolk Community Foundation, said the findings were in line with statistics published in the latest Hidden Needs report back in 2016.
He added: “From this data across the districts there is an average of 20% which fits in with the Hidden Needs research from 2015.
“It is horrific that this many children are living in poverty, and I think there are two areas that are really pertinent.
“There is a large demand for food banks in the county and a lot of the families relying on them have two working parents.
“An issue like that really shows that even if you work, you can be in poverty and that kind of financial deprivation has a knock-on effect in early life.
Mr Singleton said: “The second thing is that 33% of children in Suffolk are eligible for free school meals, and that shows how financial hardship can have a big impact on children’s lives.
“In our Hidden Needs report we found only 33% of children eligible for free school meals attained five good grades at GCSE compared with 70% of pupils overall.”
While Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This a challenge that we are addressing in Suffolk with support from central government who recently announced the awarding of £6million to Ipswich as one of their 12 key opportunity areas.
“Suffolk County Council is committed to giving every child fairer opportunities from early years through to employment and we will work closely with partner organisations in the Ipswich area to achieve this. ”
In north Essex, 23,598 children are considered to be in poverty across constituencies such as Colchester, Braintree, Witham, Harwich and north Essex and Clacton.
“Almost 40% of children in Clacton – which incorporates Jaywick, the UK’s most deprived neighbourhood – are living below the breadline with 6,158 youngsters in poverty.
Giles Watling, MP for the area, said: “My initial reaction is that these are horrific figures.
“All instances of deprivation need to be eradicated and I know that this is something the council has been working hard to reduce in Clacton.
“I will be raising these figures in the house to see how we can all work together to crack down on this problem. It is simply not acceptable to have child poverty on this scale.”
Elsewhere in Essex, 25.4% of children in Colchester are considered to be in poverty, with a total of 6,254 youngsters.
Braintree and Witham had lower child poverty rates, while Harwich and north Essex had 20.7%.
Paul Hill, head of grants and programmes at Essex Community Foundation, said: “The voluntary sector in Essex provides a wide range of support, including education, training, debt advice and counselling which can help to address why families and children may be living in poverty.
“Ensuring that children from disadvantaged backgrounds get the best start in life, through early educational support, is just one way of helping to break the cycle of poverty.”
For an interactive map showing the national picture,visit the End Child Poverty website.