TACKLING child poverty in Sunderland is costing £187million a year.
New figures reveal the huge expense is generated by caring for the 17,185 children living under the poverty line in the city.
The estimated cost, published today in a report by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), shows that Wearside incurs the third highest costs in the region in attempting to combat the problem.
County Durham has the highest figures in the North East with 27,230 youngsters experiencing hardship, at a cost of £296million a year.
Newcastle ranks second highest, counting 17,622 children living on the breadline at a cost of £191million.
Coun Pat Smith, responsible for children’s services at Sunderland City Council, said it is doing everything it can to bring the figures down.
“As the Child Poverty Action Group suggests, there is already a city strategy to address child and family poverty and this includes measures such as improving parenting and life skills, reducing teenage pregnancies, improving access to education and attainment, and getting more parents into work,” she said.
“Examples of this work includes the Family Focus initiative supporting families into employment and the Foundation of Light’s Improving Futures programme.
“The city council, working with its partners across Sunderland, continues to work hard on reducing these figures in difficult economic conditions.”
The report from CPAG – called Local Authorities and Child Poverty: Balancing Threats with Opportunities – is being launched today at a conference in Birmingham which aims to help local councils meet obligations under the Child Poverty Act, to put child poverty strategies in place, and tackle the issue.
Chief executive of regional charity Children North East, Jeremy Cripps, said tax payers need to stop paying for failures in child care.
“The North East is losing £1,635million every year due to child poverty,” he said.
“And a large part of that cost lands on council services. This is not only a waste of money, but a waste of our children’s prospects.
“We need to stop paying for failure and instead invest in our children’s future potential.”
Nationally, child poverty is costing taxpayers £29billion a year.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group, said: “We always put our children first in family life, and it’s right that we should do so in our local communities too.
“Every council is required by law to have a local child poverty strategy.
“The good news is that reducing child poverty benefits everyone by cutting the costs to local authority services and boosting the local economy through improved skills and qualifications for school leavers.”