Alarming levels of child poverty

STEVE DOWNES The reality of life in deprived parts of Norfolk was laid bare last night as new figures revealed alarming levels of child poverty.

STEVE DOWNES

The reality of life in deprived parts of Norfolk was laid bare last night as new figures revealed alarming levels of child poverty.

Thousands of children are suffering ill health, poor diet, squalid housing and are more likely to drift into crime and dead-end jobs because they are enduring conditions well below the poverty line.

Twenty-six areas of Norfolk are ranked among the most deprived 10pc in England - 25 of which are in Yarmouth, Norwich and King's Lynn.

Meanwhile, the number of children in care in Norfolk - which is believed to be "strongly linked" to high levels of child poverty - began to climb again.

There are currently 823 "looked after" children - up from 801 in July but below the record high of 845 last year.

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Last night, after the child poverty and care figures were published in a report to tomorrow's cabinet scrutiny committee at Norfolk County Council, there were calls for "concerted action" to improve the lot of the county's children.

Scrutiny chairwoman Irene Macdonald said: "These statistics show what lies beneath the picture postcard view that many outsiders have of Norfolk.

"Children born into poverty have fewer chances in life and more chance of being taken into care. This is a crucially important issue and one that requires people to work together to improve it."

The news came a week after it was revealed that the number of Norfolk children on the child protection register had risen from 310 in 2004/5 to 410 by March 31 this year.

It has since fallen to 369, but there are fears that the upward trend could lead to more children being placed in care.

The latest figures show that Norfolk's level of child poverty is the second worst of the 16 shire counties in England that the government ranks together because they are in similar, rural areas.

Suffolk is seventh, while Cambridgeshire is the best of the bunch.