EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: Deprivation affecting children here in the north requires urgent action

This week, the Child of the North cross-party group of MPs that I co-chair launched our first report. Our findings are bleak.

“Our suggestions could make a difference right now. They include an expansion of free school meals.”
“Our suggestions could make a difference right now. They include an expansion of free school meals.”

Working with the Northern Health Science Alliance and hearing real testimonies from across our northern communities we found that children in the north are the most affected by the cost-of-living crisis, are more likely to live in fuel poverty and to suffer from food insecurity.

The testimonies we heard through our evidence-gathering process were of children arriving at school from cold homes, tired, hungry and without shoes.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

We heard of children missing health appointments due to the cost of transport and the absolute heartbreak of expectant mams having terminations as they are worried about having another mouth to feed and clothe.

Your life chances should not be dictated by geography, but in Tory Britain they are.

Years of austerity, inaction on low paid and insecure work, lack of investment in skills, job creation and poor transport links all contributed to children in the north being hit hardest by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

All Governments have choices to make and policy priorities.

History shows us that poverty isn’t inevitable and policy interventions do work; the last Labour Government lifted 800 000 children out of poverty.

This Government is doing the opposite. Far from levelling up, they’re increasing inequality. Our recommendations could make a difference right now; they include an expansion of free school meals, a pause on the five-week wait for Universal Credit, targeted support for those on pre-paid meters and a suspension of their installation over the winter months.

All MPs on the group are united in being a voice for the children in our communities and committed to pushing forward these recommendations, we know how unique and special the north is and we know our children deserve more.

The scale and severity of deprivation facing children in the north requires urgent action. Our group’s recommendations would ultimately benefit all children, but the situation for the children in the north is acute – they can’t wait and we’re going to make sure they don’t have to.