Hartlepool Foodbank has helped an average of more than 100 children a month after hard-up families made desperate pleas for help.
The life-saving Church Street charity helped 4,507 people throughout 2014, of which 1,253 were children aged under 17.
That is equal to 12 people needing to use the Foodbank every day throughout the year, or 375 a month, including 104 children a month.
Starving town families used a total of 2,452 Foodbank vouchers distributed by the charity last year, which was an increase of 349 on 2013.
Today, MP for Hartlepool Iain Wright described the figures as “heartbreaking”.
“The notion that kids in a rich economy, where you have billionaires avoiding paying tax, yet there are people in our town who can’t afford to feed their children.
“No-one can view that as acceptable – it should make people both upset and very angry.
“I see it when people come to seek help from me, they are absolutely desperate and they haven’t got enough money to heat their homes or put food on the able.
“A lot of the time these people are in work as well, but their incomes are so low given the rising cost of living. It’s just not enough to allow people to live.
“There are also benefit sanctions for the most spurious of reasons which seems to confirm that Central Government is dictating to job centres that they must impose them.”
“I’m genuinely shocked that this is happening in this day and age. People having to go into charities for hand-outs for something as basic as food is an absolute disgrace.
“We are just very fortunate that the people of Hartlepool are so generous and continue to to donate food to the Foodbank.”
In the annual report, chair of trustees Clive Hall said:
“Hartlepool Foodbank is a robust and effective project which has grown and developed extremely well since opening two years ago.
“Hartlepool Foodbank should feel extremely proud of all that has been achieved since opening and for the very professional service that has been developed.”
The figures were revealed in Hartlepool Foodbank’s Annual report for 2014.
It also showed that the main reasons people became so hungry that they were forced to use the service to feed themselves and their familes, was down to benefit delays and changes, and low income.
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 10 Mar 2015
The number of struggling families sending their children to school without breakfast has increased over the last year, a new poll suggests.
A survey by Kelloggs reveals that 38% of primary and secondary school teachers are seeing children arriving at school hungry every day.
And 21% said the number of kids who arrive at school hungry has increased over the last year, while only 2% said the number had decreased.
Of the 21% who said the situation was worsening, around 69% blamed the global economic downturn, while a shocking 56% put the increase down to benefit cuts.
48% said parents were struggling to find full-time work that paid enough to give their children breakfast.
However, 38% of teachers said long working long hours for some parent meant breakfast was no longer seen as an important meal.
Almost a third of the 873 teachers surveyed by YouGov, on behalf of Kelloggs, said they has witnessed a child fall asleep a class, blaming tiredness or fatigue caused by hunger or thirst.
The survey reveals that hunger is having a detrimental effect on the ability for children to learn. 75% of teachers said hunger was making children lethargic, while 62% said it left them unable to learn.
Almost 48% said hungry kids were more disruptive in class and 83% said children couldn’t concentrate in class. Only 1% said skipping breakfast made children better behaved in school, says Kelloggs.
Jill Rutter, head of research and policy at the Family and Childcare Trust, said:
“In one of the world’s richest nations it is disgraceful that nearly 40 per cent of teachers report having children arriving hungry at school every day.
“Missing breakfast has huge impact on children’s ability to concentrate, learn and behave, which affects their results and long-term outcomes.
“Governments in all parts of the UK now recognise that breakfast is essential, but there are too many children who still miss out.
“We are concerned that a third of teachers have felt compelled to bring in food for children who haven’t had breakfast.
“The Family and Childcare Trust encourages schools to take up the opportunities offered by Kellogg’s and set up a breakfast club. Such a small investment can make a real difference for our children, today and in the future.”
Kelloggs said they are increasing efforts to provide breakfast clubs to low-income families in deprived areas.
Paul Wheeler, a Kellogg’s spokesperson, said:
“It’s a crying shame that so many children are going to school without having eaten a basic breakfast.
“When your stomach’s rumbling it’s hard to concentrate on anything else, so it’s no small wonder we’re hearing about children becoming badly behaved and unwilling to learn when they’re hungry.
“That’s why over the past 16 years, Kellogg’s has set up more than 1,000 new breakfast clubs in some of the country’s most deprived areas.”
According to Kelloggs, around 85% of schools now have a breakfast club, with 54% saying the primary reason for setting one up is because of kids going to school hungry.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 09 Jan 2015
Working parents are being crippled by childcare costs with one in five North parents effectively working for nothing, figures today reveal.
New research suggests more than a third of parents in the region with children aged up to five say that one earner brings home less than £100 a month after childcare costs have been paid.
The typical amount brought home by the lower earner in a household is £212.50 after childcare and work costs have been taken into account.
Businesses have now called on the government to extend childcare support for parents with children aged one and two.
The CBI employers’ organisation said that this, and better paid jobs in the North East, would help raise family incomes and get more adults into work.
Regional head of the CBI, Dianne Sharp, said:
“In the aftermath of recession, more jobs were created in sectors with below median wages than jobs in sectors with above median wages.
> And who by ? How many of these low wages were decided by CBI members ?
“Childcare costs will remain a problem if the region fails to provide higher skilled and better paid jobs.
“Work has to pay and it’s regrettable if childcare costs are preventing parents getting back into work.
“This means we need a long-term, coordinated commitment from government to provide affordable, accessible childcare for all so that parents who choose to can maintain contact with the labour market.
“Reducing the cost of childcare for parents is important, but so is increasing the flexibility of hours that it’s available for.
“As the UK’s labour market has developed, a 9-5 approach still predominates in childcare. Nurseries are increasingly offering 8-6, but we need to see more provision of wraparound care in schools through breakfast and afterschool clubs.”
According to the research, by insurer Aviva, about 34% of parents with children aged up to five said they used childcare to enable them to go back to work.
Of these, 48% use a paid for nursery, 33% use a school, 41% turn to grandparents and just 4% use a childminder.
Beth Farhat, regional secretary of the Northern TUC, said:
“There is a lot of pressure on women to return to work early because they feel their future career and earnings will be jeopardised if they don’t, but the affordability of childcare makes things incredibly difficult.
“Childcare bills can place a huge strain on many families’ finances and that is one of the reasons why the TUC believes Britain needs a pay rise.
“TUC analysis has shown that once inflation is considered the real value of the average full-time wages has fallen by £2,500 since 2010 and that understandably has consequences for more and more families, particularly with young children.
“These figures from Aviva show that over a third of parents in our region are effectively be working for next to nothing after their childcare costs are taking into account.
“It would be a tragic waste of talent in our region’s labour market to lose out on people who want to work but can no longer financially justify it.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Jan 2015
Single parents participating in the Government’s flagship back-to-work scheme are being told to leave children as young as nine at home unsupervised in order to attend, according to a North-East MP.
Labour’s Jenny Chapman, the member for Darlington, told MPs some of her constituents undertaking the Work Programme had been to see her to raise their concerns about advice given to them.
Speaking during work and pensions questions in the Commons on Monday (December 8), she said:
“Single parents in the Work Programme in Darlington have been to see me because they are being told to leave their nine and ten-year-old children at home unsupervised during the school holidays to be able to attend.
“Will you urgently look into this and make sure that this foolish, dangerous, reckless advice is never given to parents?”
Employment minister Esther McVey said it was key to ensure the right support was being offered to lone parents.
She went on:
“Obviously, we work closely with charities like Gingerbread to ensure that when people are lone parents that actually the hours they have to work and the commitments they have to live up to are actually fit around their lifetime and also the children they are looking after.
“That is really key in offering the right support for those lone parents.”
This Work Programme aims to provide support, work experience and training for up to two years to help people find and stay in work.
It was launched in 2011 with the goal of helping 2.1 million people by March 2016.
In a leaflet explaining the Work Programme, published in December 2012, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), said those with young children would have their benefits protected.
“Benefit recipients will be expected actively to look for work, and where this is not possible to prepare for work – except for a few exceptional groups, for example those who are seriously disabled or have very young children.”
It added: “Some people with health problems… continue to receive incapacity benefits; lone parents with younger children and some other groups are eligible for Income Support.”
Source – Northern Echo, 08 Dec 2014
Saving councils cash is driving a rise in fast-track child adoptions in the North, an MP has claimed.
The British Association of Social Workers has launched an inquiry into why adoption in the North East has shot up by 26% in the last year after Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell highlighted concerns about the issue.
He believes dwindling numbers of under-pressure social workers are spending less time trying to keep families together and that councils, navigating central Government cuts, are pushing adoptions.
It comes as the Department for Education revealed the number of adoptions increased to 390 in 2013/14 from 290 the previous year.
Local authorities say they are doing all they can to keep parents and their children in a unit, and any claim adoption was used as a money-saving measure is “completely wrong”.
Mr Campbell said:
“I think it is about money at the end of the day. It is cheaper to adopt than it is to foster a child.
“We should be helping parents to get back on the straight and narrow.
“I have seen parents who have turned themselves around.
“Because of all the cuts, social services don’t seem to be there to help anymore. I don’t see why adoption has to be the be all and end all.”
He added social workers may also be afraid to manage intervention in the wake of some high profile cases, such as the failure of Haringey Children’s Services in the lead up to the death of 17-month-old Peter Connelly, who suffered appalling abuse at home.
Mr Campbell said:
“With Baby P and everything that came out, I think our social workers are frightened of their own job.
“Adoption is the easy option and it doesn’t cost the council anything. If you foster a child it is costing rate payers £500 a week. Why can we not try and keep the family together and help the mothers to bring themselves round.”
Bridget Robb, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said quick decisions were being made to get children out of the public care system.
“Due to the impact of austerity, many services which have been around in local communities to support children and their birth families are no longer around as they have closed due to lack of money. This makes it harder to provide the help those families need to stay together.
“Our current UK adoption legislation enables children to be adopted without the consent of their parents. This aspect of the legislation is being increasingly used to speed up the adoption process. While there are extreme circumstances where this may be necessary, its widespread use is causing us real concern as a profession.”
In Gateshead the number of looked after children adopted leapt from 15 in 2013 to 35, while there was an increase of 25 looked after children adopted in Newcastle to hit 60 in 2014.
In County Durham, adoptions shot up to 75 from 40, while in Middlesbrough, Northumberland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland the figures remained the same.
In Darlington, the number of adoptions doubled from 10 to 20, while the number rose by five to 15 in both Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland. In Stockton-on-Tees, the number rose by ten to 30.
Councils stressed adoption was a last resort and had to be agreed by a court.
A Newcastle City Council spokesman admitted all services were coming under pressure, but said:
“It is totally wrong and misinformed to suggest that adoption is in some way a replacement for adequate social care support to families. Adoption is a way to provide a loving family home for children who cannot be cared for by their natural parents for a whole host of reasons. For many of these children the alternative would be a childhood spent in local authority care. Newcastle City Council is proud of the fact that it is giving more children the best possible start in life by increasing the numbers of adoptions, and this is something we will continue to try to do.
“At the same time, through the Newcastle Families Programme, the council is working with a range of partners in the city to provide intensive support to families who find themselves in trouble, providing the help and challenge they need to turn their lives around. The programme is one of the most successful in the country – helping around 300 families a year to overcome difficulties and get back on the right track.
“Government cuts and rising costs are forcing councils to make difficult decisions about services. Newcastle City Council has ensured that service to vulnerable people have been prioritised to avoid the deepest cuts, but it is true that these services are coming under increasing pressure.”
Karen Robb, strategic manager, looked after children and permanence at Durham County Council, said:
“We will always work with families to see if the children can remain with their parents or another family member. Where this is not possible children are only adopted after we have received a mandate from the courts where they are satisfied that there is no possibility of the birth parents or extended families being able to provide satisfactory care.
“We actively ensure that children who cannot live within their own families are placed permanently with their new families as quickly as possible.”
Councillor Angela Douglas, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People at Gateshead added:
“We are committed to achieving the best outcomes for our children and young people and we know that for some children the best way to achieve this is through providing new forever families.
“Placing a child with adoptive parents only ever happens if it is felt by everyone that this would be in the best interests of that child. No other factors are involved in that decision.
“To suggest that adoption is taking place as a money-saving measure – and that the specific needs of that child are therefore being ignored – is completely wrong.”
Newcastle MP Catherine McKinnell said:
“There’s no doubt that the number of children in care in the region has risen over recent years, with over 500 children in the care of Newcastle Council alone.
“This comes at a huge cost not just to the local authority and society at large, but also to the children themselves as those who’ve grown up in care have historically had significantly worse outcomes.
“Clearly, it’s vital for local authorities and other organisations to provide early intervention services to support troubled families, in order to prevent family breakdowns and children being taken into care in the first place.
“But for those children already in care, I support moves to help them find permanent, secure, loving and stable families, and an increase in adoption rates – where it is appropriate for each individual child – is a positive step.”
Source – Sunday Sun, 16 Nov 2014
Almost 20,000 Wearside families are struggling with the cost of sending their children to school, a new report has revealed.
Every year parents are forking out an average of £770 per child to meet the basic needs of their child’s schooling, according to a study published today by the Children’s Commission on Poverty.
Backed by the Children’s Society, the report found 78 per cent of parents in the North East are struggling to meet the costs of school clothing, sports kits, school meals, trips, books, materials for classes, stationery, computers for homework, travel to and from school and summer clubs or activities.
Collectively, Sunderland parents are spending £26,899,261 on meeting school costs and 19,303 families are struggling, according to the report.
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Wasington and Sunderland West, said:
“Schools have a growing responsibility to ensure that the significant disadvantages that their pupils face because of poverty are addressed, and they now have significant funding through the pupil premium to help them do that.
“Practical steps could be making sure that uniforms are generic so they can be bought cheaply in supermarkets, running breakfast clubs so that children who don’t get fed on a morning aren’t prevented from learning by hunger, or homework clubs so that children can use computers and other resources they might not have at home.
“Child poverty is a millstone around the neck of children throughout the rest of their lives, and it benefits us all to do everything we can to alleviate its symptoms as soon as possible.”
The Children’s Commission on Poverty, a panel of children aged 10-19 from across England, found the costs are not only affecting family finances, but also harming the wellbeing of the poorest children.
It discovered more than half of the poorest families are borrowing money to pay for essential school items, almost two-thirds of children living in the poorest families are embarrassed as a result of not being able to afford key aspects of school and more than 25 per cent said this had led them to being bullied.
Across County Durham, parents spent £47,073,023 on school costs, with 34,702 families classed as struggling.
The report also found that a third of children living in the poorest families had fallen behind at school because their family couldn’t afford the computer or internet facilities.
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“Children are being penalised and denied their right to an equal education simply because their parents cannot afford the basics. This is just not right.
“The Government needs to listen to this crucial report by young commissioners and act to make sure no child is stopped from getting an education equal to their peers. It must stop children from being made to suffer because they are living in poverty.”
Source – Sunderland Echo, 29 Oct 2014
More than half of families living in Middlesbrough struggle to put food on the table, shocking new figures show.
In the town, 50.7% of children are living in poverty, according to figures from the Campaign to End Child Poverty, making it the most deprived area in the North East.
It compared to just 3.6% of children in the Stocksfield and Broomhaugh ward of Northumberland.
Figures are based on the proportion of children living households their families are in receipt of out of work benefits or in receipt of in-work tax credits and where their reported family income is less than 60% of median income after housing costs.
This week, young people from across the North East marched on Parliament to have their voices heard on child poverty.
A 38-strong-team – including 13 children from the North East – made the long trip to London to present their manifesto to a cross-party panel at Westminster.
Written by children aged 13 to 18, it targeted government-led policies against child poverty which they feel have “failed” to engage young people.
The children’s manifesto calls for every family in Britain to meet a minimum standard of living, not just surviving; for an equal school experience for all; for affordable, decent homes for everyone; for young people to have access to three affordable healthy meals a day; for all to feel and be safe; and for all young people to access affordable transport.
The children presented their manifesto to MPs Chris White (Conservative), David Ward (Liberal Democrat) and Teresa Pearce (Labour).
Liam Binns, 17, from Newcastle, spoke of how the issue affected young people in his community.
“It costs £4 for a meal at Newcastle College and a lot of kids can’t afford that,” he said. “It also costs kids £2.30 to travel into school or college on the bus everyday.
“How can we stop child poverty and under-achievement in our communities when we’re not operating on a level playing field?
“If it’s free education for all, why are we having to pay for food and travel?”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle, 18 Oct 2014
Action is needed to tackle “outrageous” levels of child poverty in parts of the region, campaigners have urged.
It comes as figures suggest nine of the 12 North East councils have wards where more than 20% of children live in pockets of severe poverty.
The worst areas were in Middlesbrough (33%), Hartlepool (29%), Newcastle (28%) and South Tyneside (26.5%).
The North East Child Poverty Commission warned inflation, unemployment and cuts could see levels of deprivation spiral.
> Oh wow – they’re on the ball, aren’t they ? What do they think has been happening these last few years ?
The group has produced a map of child poverty for every ward, council and constituency in the region.
The map classes children as living in poverty if they are in families on out of work benefits or work tax credits where income is less than 60% of median – before housing costs.
Alan Milburn, who chairs the Social Mobility and Child Poverty (SMCP) commission said current levels of child poverty in the North are a “moral outrage” and have to change.
> MP for Darlington from 1992 until 2010. He served for five years in the Cabinet, first as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1998 to 1999, and subsequently as Secretary of State for Health until 2003.
A strong supporter of Tony Blair‘s policies, especially his continued policy of increased private involvement in public service provision
Following his resignation as Secretary of State for Health (to spend more time with his family), Milburn took a post for £30,000 a year as an advisor to Bridgepoint Capital, a venture capital firm heavily involved in financing private health-care firms moving into the NHS, including Alliance Medical, Match Group, Medica and the Robinia Care Group. He has been Member of Advisory Board of PepsiCo since April 2007.
Another New Labour “socialist” you could trust with your life… if you’re tired of living.
The former Labour cabinet minister said: “Poor kids in the region are four times as likely to be poor adults.
“The poorest kids in the region’s schools face a double whammy. They arrive at primary school less ready to learn than their more privileged peers and only a third leave primary school with the required levels of reading and writing.
“Two in three of those kids then leave secondary school without five good GCSEs. The challenge we have in this country is at large in the North.
“Children post 16 are more likely to drop out of education than anywhere else in the country. The region also has the lowest rate of children going to university.
“It is more clear than ever that effective collaboration at all levels of government is required to help ensure the right conditions for children living in these deprived communities.”
The figures come three days before a group of young people from the region march on Parliament to give MPs their views on how to tackle child poverty.
As reported last week, more than half of the 38-strong cohort of youngsters that have been working on a children’s manifesto hail from the region.
They will present their national findings to an All Party Parliamentary Group on Wednesday.
Source – Sunday Sun, 12 Oct 2014
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
North East teachers say they worry about the health of nearly two in five pupils when they return from school holidays because they are not given enough to eat.
Research by Kellogg’s also found that while holidays should be a fun time for families, term time breaks put an extra burden on the food budget of 27 per cent of parents in the region – with 17 per cent of parents struggling to feed their children three meals a day.
Of the 39 per cent of teachers who say there are pupils in their school that do not get enough to eat over the school holidays, more than a third of staff notice children returning to class with signs of weight loss and 43 per cent have seen a noticeable difference in their readiness to learn when they return for the new term.
And 30 per cent of North East teachers think offering holiday clubs at their school would ensure that children get fed properly, while 67 per cent believe they would give the added bonus of providing children with extra learning opportunities over the summer.
Adrian Curtis is director of the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, which has two sites in Newcastle, one in Gateshead and one in Durham.
He said: “These are sad statistics when children spend 170 days out of school compared to 190 days in the classroom.
“School holidays are especially difficult for low income families whose children usually receive free school meals or support from breakfast clubs. Many are deeply concerned about being able to feed their children over the long break, and may resort to skipping meals to feed their children.”
He added: “Last year we saw foodbank usage in August increase by over a fifth compared to the same time in June, before the holidays began, and we expect this year’s figures to reflect a similar trend.
“On top of the existing work foodbanks do to help families struggling during the holidays, we have started to partner with companies, like Kellogg’s, to pilot running holiday breakfast clubs for families whose incomes are stretched to breaking point.”
The Kellogg’s Holiday Breakfast Club programme is held in schools, community centres and foodbanks across the UK to provide food and social activities. It is part of the company’s Help Give a Child a Breakfast initiative which aims to feed 80,000 families in need every day.
Katy Luke, manager of Blyth Valley Barnardos children’s centre, said: “We are aware that many families we work with are living in poverty and holidays are expensive for them, even when meeting basic costs not to mention treats which children hope to have on holiday.
“In our centre arrange a programme of activities that are free or low cost and we give families ideas of how to entertain youngster without having to break the bank. We also offer parents help during term time on how to cook healthy family meals on a tight budget.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Aug 2014