Region's poverty trap uncovered

The government is urged to do more to eradicate poverty today after it emerged that about a million people in the Eastern region are still living on or below the breadline.

The government is being urged

to do more to eradicate poverty today after it emerged that

around a million people in

the eastern region are still

living on or below the

breadline.

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A hard-hitting new report

shows that nearly a fifth of households in the east of England are on low incomes despite millions of pounds being pumped into addressing deprivation among the elderly and young families.

The findings by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, published today, reveal that while the number of pensioners and children in poverty has reduced, serious problems still remain in tackling social exclusion.

It says the government's anti-poverty strategies are being "undermined" by the large number of adult workers on low wages, "gross inequalities" in rates of pay and young adults failing to achieve basic qualifications

The research charity's views were echoed by officials in East Anglia, who called for more government focus on working-aged adults and education.

The Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion report, which coincides with a National Poverty Hearing conference on Wednesday, found that the number of people in the eastern region living in below-average income households had dropped over the last 10 years from 21pc to 17pc.

But a fifth of pensioners and children are still in low-incomes households, despite efforts to improve the quality of life for vulnerable groups.

While unemployment was low in the east of England, nearly 40pc of employees were earning less than £6.50 an hour, particularly in west Norfolk and coastal areas of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Richard Rockcliffe, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for economic development, said local authorities needed better government funding to meet the "enormous challenge" of tackling poverty.

He said: "Deprivation remains a significant issue in a number of areas in Norfolk and we need to address this on a number of different levels.

"We have a good track record in attracting funds into Norfolk from sources such as the European Union, the Lottery and the government for specific

funding and this must continue. But the system of local government funding is

seriously flawed and our ability

to make changes for the better will be hampered until this is sorted out at a national level."

Mr Rockcliffe said regeneration projects in places such as King's Lynn and Yarmouth, a focus on educational attainment and developing services for the reduction of teenage pregnancies and substance misuse would help cut poverty in the county.

Brenda Arthur, chief executive of Age Concern Norwich, said the introduction of pension credits had reduced deprivation among the elderly, but more help was still needed.

"It is clear that the government has put most in place to reduce poverty at both ends of the age range. It has made some impact, but it is not sufficient," she

said.

"Living in poverty makes a huge difference to people's lives and there is a potential to become socially excluded. We need to make sure there is greater targeting of those people in need. There are still lots of people who view benefits as a hand-out and we are telling them that they are entitled to them and should claim them."

The threshold for an

average income household is classed as £100 a week for a single person and £260 a week for a couple with two children after tax, national insurance, council tax, rent, mortgage and water charges.

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