We must tackle child poverty now

Believe it or not, and there will be millions of people who will find it hard to believe, there are issues other than Brexit that are in real need of serious attention right now – child poverty for one.

Thursday, 18th April 2019, 4:33 pm
Ian Lavery MP.

Brexit has become such an all-consuming situation that child poverty is just one of the issues that seems to have been pushed way down the agenda.

However, Dr Mary Bousted, the joint secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) has painted what she calls a “Dickensian picture” of poverty being faced by a shameful number of children and their families on a daily basis in this country.

She has talked about families living without enough money to pay for the basics of life, including food, shoes and clothing, and that is a situation faced not just by people without a job, but one in five families with a breadwinner in work.

An NEU snapshot of 1,000 teachers showed nearly half confirmed ‘holiday hunger’, when children don’t get a hot school meal, has worsened; teachers buying pupils coats and shoes; children sleeping in school uniforms because they have no pyjamas; and children being given ‘free’ school meals even though their families do not qualify.

Teachers also reported concerns about the impact poor quality housing, overcrowding, insecurity of tenure, changes in benefit payments and having to live in temporary accommodation is having on the lives of families and children.

I met NEU officials to discuss the situation, as well as the impact funding cuts are having on schools, and to see how we can work together to develop a Wansbeck child poverty strategy to improve circumstances for local families.

I feel absolutely incensed at the rising level of child poverty among our communities.

I firmly believe that in the longer term one of the answers could lie in a redistribution of wealth, but we cannot wait for that to happen because child poverty is a situation we must tackle as a matter of grave urgency.