Children from some of the most deprived parts of the North will storm the corridors of power in a bid to end child poverty.
> I’m sure the word storm is not being used literally here, but it wouldn’t it be nice if they did…
A 38-strong national cohort of children, which is more than half made up of children from this region, has drawn up a manifesto to launch in Parliament on October 15.
They hope to see their issues raised by local MPs during future Prime Minister’s Questions – something believed never to have happened before.
The North East has the highest child poverty rate in the UK, with one in three children affected.
Some neighbourhoods in the North East have more than two-thirds of children living in families on out of work benefits.
The manifesto has been written by children aged between 13 and 18 and targets government-led policies against child poverty, which they feel have “failed” to engage with young people.
It has been thought up and produced by Poverty Ends Now (PEN); a group of young people from some of the most deprived parts of England, coming together to speak about the issues affecting children in their community.
The project is supported by Children North East, a charity which works with children and their parents who are living in poverty.
The charity’s chief executive Jeremy Cripps said children’s voices are seldom heard in public debates.
He said: “Children and young people experiencing poverty can see most clearly what must be done. This is their manifesto. It sets out plainly how to reduce the impact of poverty on children and eventually eliminate it altogether.
“The manifesto is national but if you take the view that child poverty is a structural issue caused by a lack of well-paid jobs, then the North East lags behind the rest of the country.
“The children want to be able to get some of their questions about child poverty asked by their local MPs as part of Prime Minister’s Questions.
“As far as I understand this has never been done before.”
Key issues addressed by the young people includes low incomes, which leaves many families struggling, and the failure to provide three meals per day for all children.
The six-point manifesto has been developed by children who are members of various youth groups, reflecting on theirs and their friends’ experiences.
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, who sits on the cross party education select committee, says it’s important children have a voice of their own.
“They are not just flying kites here,” he said. “They are highlighting real and distinct problems that members of Parliament should listen to.
“It’s important to produce the interests, particularly of children, who have no voice of their own when it comes to democratic policies.”
Stockton MP Alex Cunningham, who also has a seat on the select committee, said: “Young people taking this level of interest in politics have to be applauded.
“And I am sure they have some very clear messages from their own personal experiences.
“Incomes are poor on Teesside and worse than most parts of the country. Children are suffering as a result of a low-wage economy and high rates of unemployment.
“If any group of people are qualified to tell politicians in London what it’s like living in child poverty, it’s these children who are directly affected.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 October 2014
Low pay and rising prices are pushing thousands of North East families into poverty, a charity chief has told MPs.
Sara Bryson, policy and development officer at Children North East, said that the majority of children in poverty in the region came from working families and that rising employment had not translated into living standards for many.
Giving evidence to Parliament, she called for central and local Government bodies in the region to introduce the Living Wage so that families could cover the basic costs of living.
Ms Bryson said that more than 60% of all children living in poverty in the North East have working parents and that it was years of stagnant pay and high prices that has pushed many low-income families to breaking point.
“It’s about making sure when people do work they can afford to feed their children and send them to school,” said Ms Bryson. “In order to do that they need to earn a living wage.
“National Government is very much focussed on getting people jobs in the private sector but the recession has hit hard and industry still hasn’t fully recovered up here. The region’s public sector, which has always been our most dominant employer, has also been hit hard.
“One in four children and young people in the North East live below the official poverty line. It is not fair or right that they don’t get the same chances and breaks as their peers.”
During the Parliamentary discussion, Ms Bryson shared her views, opinions and knowledge around poverty in schools and child poverty issues.
The Children’s Commission on Poverty and The Children’s Society will meet in August and September to review the findings from the sessions and produce an independent report which will be published in October.
“Education is so important to lift children out of poverty but they need to have a positive experience at school,” added Ms Bryson. “Some children will never have been on a school trip, they will have gone without meals, warm clothes and perhaps felt embarrassed or scared to bring their friends home.
“I was brought up in Blakelaw, in Newcastle’s west end, and it was my first school trip that inspired me to go on to university and study.
“As well as adopting the Living Wage we need to work closely with schools to maintain a bursary for pupils after the National Education Maintenance Allowance was abolished and ensure schools are effectively using the Pupil Premium funding from the Government to support disadvantaged children.
“We also doing terrific work as a charity at helping teachers and school staff better understand the individual needs of children in poverty. This goes a long way to abolishing the stigma and prejudices felt between children at school.”
The latest figures show that 24.5% of children in the North East are in poverty, compared to a UK average of 20.6%.
That figure rises to 29% in Newcastle and the proportion of children living in poverty in some parts of the city is far higher. In both Walker and Byker, in the city’s east end, the figure rises above 50%.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 31 July 2014
An increasing number of families in the North East are facing homelessness this winter, according to the latest statistics.
Calls to charity Shelter have increased by 12% since last year, and the number of people in the North East who called the Shelter helpline from 2012 to 2013 reached 2,490, the equivalent of more than 200 callers per month.
The charity say the figures reflect the growing number of people struggling to cope with the rising costs of living coupled with stagnating wages, and expect more families will find it increasingly difficult to keep a roof over their heads, especially as bills mount in the run-up to Christmas.
Shelter helpline adviser Liz Clare said the Christmas period is the most difficult time of year for her and colleagues. :
“The threat of homelessness is devastating at any time of year, but it seems to get worse around Christmas as the strains of the holidays close in and the weather gets cold.
“One Christmas Eve I answered a call from a mum with a disabled son. They were evicted from their home that night and had to sleep on the streets in the cold. We managed to find them a place to stay, but I’ll never forget the devastation in her voice. The sad fact is that eviction notices can come at any time of year. “
“I’ve never seen the helpline as busy as it has been this year.”
Jeremy Cripps, the chief executive of charity Children North East warned the figures could also increase following Christmas as people struggle to cope with the costs of the festive period and fall into arrears.
“What we have noticed is that a high proportion of families are there because of rent arrears or because their homes have been repossessed because of missed mortgage payments.”