Suffolk: Number of children living in poverty is now 20,000

THE number of children living in poverty in Suffolk is now at 20,000, the EADT can reveal today.

This means a sixth of all under 16-year-olds are in families which are struggling to make ends meet.

A child is defined by the Government as living in poverty if their family receives out of work benefits or tax credits and their income is less than half that of the national average.

Jools Ramsey, from Suffolk-based children’s charity Ormiston said families are struggling to put fuel in their cars, pay bills and buy school uniforms.

“The picture on the ground is much worse than that, we have seen a number of families lose jobs because of the economic downturn and it has had a huge impact on families,” she said.

“People are having to make the decision whether to cook a meal or having the heating on at night – it’s a huge choice.”

The area manager for Suffolk and Essex warned that families would have felt pressure to spend money on their children during the Christmas period: “I only have to look at adverts on TV with happy smiling children with lots of toys around them. It puts huge pressure on families when they see all this.

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“It is a child’s natural reaction to want something new and exciting.

“[Parents] have to desperately want to provide for their children and that will mean in January and February it will be very hard times.”

She added: “I think we are seeing a steady rise in families who are being referred to us because they can not meet their finances.”

The charity runs two visitor centres in Highpoint Prison near Haverhill and Blundeston Prison in Lowestoft as well as their main office in Ipswich.

But they had to close a centre in Newmarket which gave support to children aged between five and 16 because of a lack of funding.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said they were “committed” to reducing the levels of child poverty in the county.

The council provides services which are intended to break the cycle of child poverty, including supporting parents to access free or affordable child care so they can work or study.

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