Yorkshire children ‘going without new shoes’ as poverty set to soar

ALMOST one in eight Yorkshire families have skipped meals because they cannot afford food, according to a charity which is predicting a record five million children in the UK in poverty by 2020.

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A national survey of 4,000 parents on a range of incomes found that half of low income families have seen their incomes drop in the last five years.

In Yorkshire, almost 20 per cent of families admitted that they could not make their budgets stretch to evening activities for their children - and one in 10 was unable to buy their children new shoes when they needed them.

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Other English regions had similar statistics, with London families struggling the most.

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The report from Save the Children reveals youngsters have paid the highest price in the recession, with families being hit by flat wages, cuts to benefits and the rising cost of living.

They have also felt the pinch with food prices increasing by 19 per cent more than the general price level of other goods between 2007 and 2011.

Soaring childcare costs have seen the price of nursery places for children under two rise by 77 per cent in 10 years since 2003.

Despite a cross-party commitment to end child poverty by 2020, new projections show the numbers living in poverty could increase by 1.4 million in the same period - a rise of 41 per cent on the 3.5 million children currently living in poverty, claims the report A Fair Start For Every Child.

Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth said: “We’re increasingly worried that unless there is a dramatic change of course, we’re at risk of writing off the future of millions of British children, giving them an unfair start in life.

“This isn’t just a question of statistics, we see families through our programmes around the UK who are really struggling.

“Millions of children in the UK are being left behind - sentenced to a lifetime of poverty. Far too many of our children are living in cold and damp homes, without healthy food, with parents who can see no end to their situation.

“If we ignore the rising toll of poverty, we are blighting the future of a further 1.4 million children. In one of the world’s richest countries there is simply no excuse.”

The charity’s estimate is based on work by Landman Economics adding projected future social security cuts, as committed to by all three major parties, to existing Institute of Fiscal Studies estimates.

It is warning that no party is setting out a viable strategy to achieve the commitments of the Child Poverty Act.

Mr Forsyth added: “Our political class is sleepwalking towards the highest levels of child poverty since records began while promising to eradicate it completely. It’s time our politicians face the scale of the crisis head-on and each party set out a concrete plan to get us back on track ahead of the general election.”

The charity is calling for every child to have access to high-quality, affordable childcare, a minimum income guarantee for families with children under five, and a national mission for all children to be reading well by the age of 11.

While showing that child poverty levels fell between 1998 and 2004, the report demonstrates that they stalled thereafter - even before the financial crisis.

It further sets out that two-thirds of children in poverty now live in working households, a rise of 12 per cent, and the UK now has one of the highest rates of low pay in the developed world. The survey of parents found that only a quarter of Yorkshire parents are optimistic about the economy in their area.