Shock of children living in poverty

A QUARTER of children are living in poverty in the most deprived parts of Suffolk, while families in rural areas are struggling to afford higher living costs, according to new figures.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates more than half a million British children will be living in poverty by 2015, but the region’s biggest children’s charity is warning the reality could be far worse in Suffolk, with widespread rural isolation and pockets of urban deprivation already forcing people into real financial hardship.

Ormiston Children and Families Trust, which is based in Ipswich and covers seven counties across the East of England, has seen the number of struggling families double in the past 18 months, with the latest figures showing 11% of Suffolk’s population live in poverty – including 19,000 children across the county.

Charity chief executive Geoff Prescott said: “If you live in a rural community it is harder to find employment, to travel to jobs, to find suitable housing, and to make ends meet when money is tight.

“Living costs are between 10 and 20% higher than for those who live in a town. Many families are struggling and the situation looks set to get worse.

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“We have seen a 100% increase in the number of people coming to us for help over the past 18 months. Vulnerable families are already struggling.

“This national warning is a real wake up call that child poverty is increasing. But we have to be realistic in that the situation is far worse for families on the poverty line who live in isolated rural communities, without access to decent public transport to get them to the jobs and support services they need.”

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About 7% of youngsters in Suffolk are classed as NEETS, that is young people not in education, employment or training, which is one of the highest rates in the UK.

The figures also show parts of Waveney and Ipswich are among the worst in the country, with 25% of children living in poverty.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous said: “This is a trend that has built up over many years largely because of the lack of job opportunities.

“People look at Suffolk as a whole and see it as a relatively prosperous county, but we do have these pockets of deprivation – including in some of the rural areas – so there is a need to get additional help into them.

“Job opportunities, infrastructure and rural transport all need to be taken into account when it comes to addressing this, and this kind of information does re-focus our efforts.”

Mr Aldous added that he was working with schools and nurseries in his constituency to ensure new Government funding such as the pupil premium and extra money for early years education could be used to give youngsters a good start in life, while improving access to broadband and growing the number of jobs in the energy industry would also help address unemployment and infrastructure issues.

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