Food network chair outlines concerns over cost of living as figures show extent of child poverty in Leeds

The chair of the Leeds Food Aid Network has outlined concerns about the cost of living crisis and the extent of child poverty in Leeds.

By Tom Coates
Saturday, 23rd July 2022, 4:45 am

Recent figures released by End Child Poverty stated that over a third of children in the city are living in poverty, which amounts to 54,273 babies, children and young people.

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More than a third of Leeds children living in poverty as new figures reveal worr...

Dave Paterson is heavily involved with supporting people in poverty as part of his role with the Leeds Food Aid Network and has detailed how rising prices are creating challenging situations for families.

The country is currently in the grip of a cost of living crisis. Image: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “The cost of living is huge, you’ve basically got people just getting tipped over the edge.

"It's not easy to bring up children at the best of times but when you've got inflation and when you've got other staple food prices going up, it's really, really challenging and concerning.

"I think people might be starting to just about trying to get over the initial shock and get through the summer, it probably helps when you've got warmer temperatures.

“That means families might be able to ride things out until the end of September but once you get into the autumn and winter, we're going to see another hike in gas and electric prices and it's really challenging.”

The Leeds Food Aid Network is trying to work with the Government in order to relieve some of the pressure on families and Mr Paterson has admitted to being encouraged by the introduction of the Household Support Fund. However, he still believes there is more work to be done.

He said: “We're trying to work constructively with the Government and they've released the household support fund, which is encouraging.

"But, I think seeing an uplift in Universal Credit would be a really positive step forward.

“Even if just went up by £10, that will still be a huge blessing for people. It’s really not easy.

“Then, there's the issue of deductions and the waiting period around Universal Credit. We want to encourage the Government to just take positive steps to alleviate some of the real challenges people are going to face over the winter and autumn period.”

He also hopes those fortunate enough to have not grown up in poverty or experience being plunged into it remain aware of families struggling to make ends meet.

Mr Paterson said: "We live in the city of Leeds and it's a brilliant city.

"I love living here but it is fairly unequal, let’s be honest. You never know what someone is experiencing. I grew up in Yeadon, a nice market town and although not everyone there is wealthy, a lot of people have enjoyed prosperity.

"There will be some people who may be slightly more naive to the suffering that is going on elsewhere and it’s just really important to be aware of that. People are really struggling and people can’t always put food on the table.

"People don’t always see what is going on, even if it is just around the corner from themselves. There are huge contrasts, significant contrasts between parts of northern Leeds and the east and the south and the inner-city west. There are some real differences there in terms of the incomes people have.”

Leeds Food Aid Network do not just help establish foodbanks and drop-ins, they also try and address the root causes of poverty to try reduce the demand for foodbanks in the first place.

Mr Paterson explained: “It's also about tackling the root causes.

"How can we help people with their debt? How can they access the appropriate welfare provision? How can they access fuel vouchers?

"All of these root causes are not easy to solve, especially if you’re on low income and it’s not just a crisis you’re going through.”

The figures from End Child Poverty also suggest children from black and minority ethnic groups are more likely to be in poverty at 46 per cent, compared with 26 per cent for children in white British families.

Children in lone parent households are also more likely to live in poverty, according to the data.

Leeds City Council’s executive member for adults and children’s social care and health partnerships, Councillor Fiona Venner, recently said: “While former government ministers are editing their leadership launch videos as they vie to be next Prime Minister, rising numbers of children in Leeds are facing poverty, hunger and hardship.

“In Leeds, we’ve retained our child poverty strategy and through that we are working innovatively alongside partners across the city to tackle the impact of poverty where children are supported to access healthy meals and activities in school holidays, employment support is offered to parents, or babies and school children who have no proper bed, are provided with a safe comfortable place to sleep.

“But as we’ve said before, we don’t control the levers to lift children out of poverty – so while we’ll continue to do our best as a council to alleviate its impacts, we need urgent action from central government to do that.

“For too long we’ve seen the Government opt to turn a blind eye to the devastating impact of child poverty. Now, as the cost of living crisis continues to grow, there’s not even a functioning government to take action – it’s clear their priorities lie elsewhere.

“The health and wellbeing of children and young people will continue to be made a priority in Leeds and we call on national government to do the same.”