War on child poverty '˜has been set back by decades'

Decades of good work by successive Governments to end child poverty risks being undone as a string of punitive benefits cuts condemns an entire generation to a 'childhood lottery', a coalition of 100 charities and civic organisations warns today.

Priority: Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley
Priority: Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley

The stark warning from the End Child Poverty campaign comes after shocking new research suggested that the Government is on track to fail on a cross party pledge to eradicate child poverty by 2020, with claims that rising living costs coupled with a freeze on benefits has stalled progress entirely.

Several Yorkshire cities are among the worst hotspots nationally, with an estimated 320,000 youngsters in the county living in deprivation. The five worst child hardship hotspots in the region are Hull, Bradford, Doncaster, North East Lincolnshire and Sheffield. Hull tops the Yorkshire and Humber league of shame, with more than one in three (35 per cent) of children in the city as a whole living in poverty.

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In Leeds, more than one in four youngsters is living in hardship. However when the numbers are broken down into parliamentary areas, Leeds Central has four in every 10 children living in poverty, the seventh worst rate in the country.

Sam Royston, chair of the End Child Poverty coalition, told the Yorkshire Post: “For a long period there was real progress right across Parliament on child poverty, But much of that good work has been undone and is expected to continue to head in the wrong direction, with many more children expected to be living in poverty by the end of the decade.

“Childhood should not be a lottery. And that’s why we need local authorities to play their role - but we also need real action at national Government level.”

The coalition is calling on the Government to use the upcoming Autumn Statement to end the four-year freeze on children’s benefits and reverse the in-work benefits cuts planned under Universal Credit.

Meanwhile Labour MP Dan Jarvis, whose private members’ bill to reduce child poverty is due to get its second reading, has slammed the cutting of staff at the Government unit responsible for tackling hardship.

The MP for Barnsley said: “This demonstrates a lack of understanding about the issue and how helping the disadvantaged is not a priority.”

He claimed the number of children living below the breadline was set for “the biggest increase in a generation”.