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