One in four Sunderland children live in poverty: City MPs say coronavirus is making situation even worse

MPs slam government after figures reveal almost a quarter of children have been living in poverty in Sunderland v.1

Friday, 22nd May 2020, 4:04 pm
Updated Friday, 22nd May 2020, 4:47 pm
Sunderland MPs, from left to right, Julie Elliott, Bridget Phillipson and Sharon Hodgson.

Sunderland MPs have slammed the Government over figures revealing nearly a quarter of children on Wearside have been living in poverty.

The End Child Poverty Coalition with Loughborough University has published an analysis of data from the Government that tracks child poverty across Britain before housing costs are taken into account.

Between 2014/15 and 2018/19, the North East of England saw child poverty numbers rise by 6.5%, with all councils in the region seeing increases.

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As of 2018/19, 24.3% of children were living in poverty in Sunderland- a rise of 5.6% since 2014/15.

Sunderland MPs have now called on the Government to do more to support families living on the breadline.

Sunderland Central MP, Julie Elliott, said the figures were “truly shocking.”

“The Government simply must do more,” she said.

“They need to properly fund services, to invest in jobs and to fix the broken Universal Credit system. Our young people and children deserve so much better.

“As the Covid-19 crisis continues, the Government needs to start investment now in jobs and social security, so that this situation does not get even worse once this crisis is over.”

Washington and Sunderland West MP, Sharon Hodgson, said: “Ten years of austerity, imposed by the Lib-Dem Coalition and Conservative Governments, is having a heart-breaking impact on our children.

“The coronavirus pandemic is only making matters worse by squeezing family finances.

“In one of the richest economies in the world, no child should be growing up in poverty.

“That is why Labour is calling for an emergency package of social security reforms, including scrapping the two-child limit and benefit cap, to help parents provide for their children during the pandemic and indeed afterwards.”

Houghton and Sunderland South MP, Bridget Phillipson, added: “The fact that child poverty is now a reality for so many children in working families in the North East shows that the Government has failed to protect families from financial hardship, and properly invest in our region over the past decade.

“Now that we are facing one of the greatest economic challenges of our lifetimes, it is crucial that we design social security policies that put working people and families first, and create more job and educational opportunities in our region.

“The last Labour Government delivered a successful strategy to eliminate child poverty. Child poverty began to fall, but the policies of consecutive Conservative governments have sadly reversed the trend.

“There is much more government can and should be doing in order to give all children the start in life that they deserve.”

The child poverty figures are based on government estimates using family income data.

In 2018/19, the worst hit area in the region was Middlesbrough where more than a third (37%) of children were living in poverty, before housing costs are taken into account, closely followed by Newcastle (28%), Hartlepool (27%), South Tyneside (26%), and Gateshead (21%).

The End Child Poverty Coalition is now calling on the Government to commit to a comprehensive strategy to end child poverty as it plans the nation’s recovery from coronavirus, which campaigners fear could draw more families below the poverty line.

Groups have also called for the Government to increase household income for struggling families.

Director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, said: “We may all be experiencing the storm of coronavirus together, but we are not all in the same boat.

“Children in the North East are some of the most exposed to the devastating economic consequences of this crisis and are at severe risk of being swept deeper into poverty.

“Families who were already struggling to keep their heads above water are now living in fear that they can’t afford to keep their children and babies warm and well fed.”

A Government spokesman said: “This government understands the challenges many are facing which is why we injected £6.5 billion into the welfare system, including increasing Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit by up to £1,040 a year, as well as rolling out income protection schemes, mortgage holidays and additional support for renters.

“We currently spend a record £95 billion a year on our safety net welfare system and remain committed to supporting the most vulnerable in society throughout the current emergency and beyond.”

Recent analysis from the Office for National Statistics, carried out between April 17-27 2020, shows just under 1 in 4 adults (23%) said coronavirus was affecting their household finances.

The most common impact in this group was reduced income and nearly half said they had needed to use savings or borrow to cover living costs.

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