One in three South Tyneside kids living in poverty

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ALMOST one third of children in South Tyneside are caught in a poverty trap, shock new statistics reveal.

Thirty one per cent of our youngsters are deemed to be living in poverty.

And the local authority area is ranked 16th worst in the UK on a new ‘child poverty map’ released today.

The map reveals a poverty postcode lottery - with where you live in South Tyneside dictating whether you are below the poverty line.

Worst hit are the Biddick Hall and All Saints and Simonside and Rekendyke wards in South Shields - where a staggering 45 per cent of children are deemed to be in poverty.

But that compares to a figure of just eight per cent in the affluent area of Cleadon and East Boldon.

Today Jarrow MP Stephen Hepburn expressed his alarm at the new report - and pledged to raise the matter in the House of Commons.

He said: “These new child poverty figures are very concerning.

“Areas like South Tyneside are being hit hard by the deep cuts imposed by this Tory-led government. I will certainly be looking to raise this issue in the Commons.”

Coun Joan Atkinson, the council’s lead member for Children, Young People and Families, staunchly defended the council’s commitment to children and young people.

That includes achieving national recognition with two awards for its innovative Tyne Gateway Child Poverty Project, the completed Building Schools for the Future programme, and re-designing a number of its services (including Children’s Centres and the Family Support Service) to enable children and young people receive the support they need.

Additionally, the council has also developed an innovative pre-Apprenticeship Academy with South Tyneside College that equips young people with the skills to move into the jobs market

Councillor Atkinson said: “The issue of child poverty is taken very seriously as we believe every child in the borough deserves the best start in life.

“The council has a clear vision to make South Tyneside an outstanding place to live, invest and bring up families. This is being delivered through a series of ambitious regeneration and investment programmes that will increase prosperity for children, young people and families.

“We are absolutely committed to supporting all families in the borough and particularly those who are struggling with money in these difficult times. We realise the best long term way of improving the lives of residents and families is to increase jobs and employment opportunities in the borough.

“Our priorities are to raise aspirations, safeguard children and improve the health of young people in the borough. The essential key to unlocking those aspirations is for those young people to achieve at school by gaining quality skills and education.”

Coun Atkinson added: “We’re not complacent and understand that too many children and young people in the borough continue to face deprivation and poverty but we are confident our action plan will help mould a better future.”

Enver Solomon, chair of the Campaign to End Child Poverty, which has compiled the ‘child poverty map’, said: “The map reveals the depth and breadth of child poverty across the country showing the gross levels of inequality that children face in every region.

“Far too many children whose parents are struggling to make a living are having to go hungry and miss out on the essentials of a decent childhood that all young people should be entitled to.

“The huge disparities that exist across the country have become more entrenched and are now an enduring reality as many more children are set to become trapped in long term poverty and disadvantage.

“Local authorities are having to deal with reduced budgets but they have critical decisions to make. We’re calling on authorities to prioritise low income families in the decisions they make about local welfare spending, including spending on the new council tax benefit, and on protecting families hit by the bedroom tax.

“This week we have written to local authority leaders in the local authorities with the most child poverty, asking them what they will do to tackle child poverty in their local area.

“The government must also closely examine its current strategy for reducing poverty and consider what more it could do to ensure millions of children’s lives are not blighted by the corrosive impact that poverty has on their daily existence.’’