The report published this week by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation showed the North East has the second highest poverty rate in the UK, with one in four households classed as living in poverty – second only to London after housing costs have been accounted for.
Before housing costs, the North East has the joint highest rate of poverty along with Yorkshire and the Humber and West Midlands, with 21% of households classed as living in poverty.
Last year the Foundation, which conducts and funds research aimed at solving poverty in the UK, published a report showing the North East had the joint highest proportion of children living in potential poverty with 46 per cent of of households with children in receipt of Universal or Working Tax Credit.
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Figures for the Sunderland Central, Washington & Sunderland West and Houghton & Sunderland South parliamentary constituencies show an even higher rate coming in at 47%, 51% and 49%, respectively.
For South Shields the rate is 49%, while for Jarrow it stands at 43%.
The new report has only served to heighten concerns.
“The North East was already facing a child poverty crisis before Covid-19, a situation made worse for too many families across our region as a result of the pandemic,” said Amanda Bailey, director of the North East Child Poverty Commission.
“Many thousands are now facing a cost of living emergency thanks to a toxic combination of incomes which are simply far too low and rapidly rising household bills.
“This week’s report adds yet more weight to the huge amount of data we have on the scale and depth of poverty in this country and the mountains of evidence on the lifelong and damaging effects that experiencing poverty in childhood can have, with a large and growing number of the youngest children only knowing a life of hardship and deprivation.
“What we – and North East babies, children and young people – urgently need is concrete action from the Government to protect people from crisis now, and meaningful, joined-up plans to dramatically reduce the number of families trapped in poverty in the years to come.”
The Government has often preached the mantra of its levelling up agenda and in the Autumn Budget Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the taper rate for Universal Credit would be adjusted so the amount of benefit a worker will lose for every pound they earn above their worker allowance will be reduced to 55p in the pound from 63p.
Speaking at the time Mr Sunak said: “This means a single mother of two earning the national minimum wage would see their take home pay increase by around £1,200 a year.”
However, with the highest levels of inflation in 30 years, fuelled by rising food and energy prices, Amanda feels this is not reflected in people’s pockets.
She said: “Welcome commitments to level up areas like ours are meaningless if they don’t result in a tangible increase in people’s living standards, with a determination to tackle child poverty once and for all.”