One in three children living in poverty in parts of Norfolk, new data finds
- Credit: Save The Children
More needs to be done to help families councillors have admitted after new figures revealed one in three children in the most deprived parts of Norfolk were living in poverty before Covid-19.
Latest data published by the End Child Poverty Coalition found that 9,497 youngsters in Norwich were living in poverty - households on less than 60pc of the average UK income, once housing costs had been considered - in the year up to the end of March 2020.
That is 34pc of youngsters in Norwich and represents in Norwich South a 3.3pc increase - 691 more youngsters - on the proportion living in poverty in 2014/15, while there were 504 more (a 2.4pc rise) in Norwich North.
Also higher than the East of England average of 26pc and the England average of 30pc was Great Yarmouth where 5,873 children were considered to be living in poverty, 546 more than in 2015.
Also above the regional average were King’s Lynn where 7,744 youngsters (29pc) were considered to be living in poverty and North Norfolk with 4,318 (29.9pc).
End Child Poverty, a coalition made up of poverty charities, said three quarters of children living in poverty in 2019/20 were in households with at least one working adult; up from two thirds in 2014/15 with the pandemic making the situation worse.
Coalition chair Anna Feuchtwang said: “The figures speak for themselves – the situation for children couldn’t be starker.
“We all want to live in a society where children are supported to be the best they can be, but the reality is very different for too many.”
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John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services at Norfolk County Council, said: “We recognise that poverty can hamper a child’s ability to achieve their potential.
“Tackling the issue is something we take seriously which is why we work closely with our partners across the public, private and voluntary sector to help those in need.”
He said the Norfolk Assistance Scheme offers a lifeline for thousands of families and that had been “even more apparent during the pandemic” supporting almost 5,000 families since the start of November 2020.
“The scheme helps those who are struggling to make ends meet by providing food packages, paying bills and providing money for other everyday essentials while helping them find out what other help they can receive,” he said.
Families whose children are eligible for free school meals were also provided with £15 food vouchers this May half term holiday after Norfolk County Council chose to use one-off funding from Government to support those in need of extra help to feed their children.
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.
Support should also be extended to those still receiving financial assistance from the old benefit system, referred to as ‘legacy benefits’, before they are switched to Universal Credit, it added.
Labour's lead for children and young people at Norfolk County Council, Mike Smith-Clare said: “It’s obvious that not enough is being done to resolve this problem.
“The data shows that too many people are living in crippling poverty - with little hope of ever being able to escape its miserable grip.
“Investment in our communities must benefit everyone, not just a chosen few. To ignore this appalling situation shows utter contempt to lives repeatedly cut adrift and in some cases tragically cut short.”
Fears that disadvantaged children learning at home were falling further behind due to “technological poverty” during lockdown had prompted action to provide families across the county with laptops, said Mr Fisher.
He said: “Digital inclusion is an increasingly important factor in a child’s life chances which is why, with the support of the EDP, Norfolk schools, charities and other partners, we launched the ‘Every Child Online’ campaign.
“The scheme provided laptops and technical assistance to around 5,500 digitally disadvantaged children and assisted hundreds of Norfolk’s schools to tackle a very wide range of IT issues.”
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