"Shameful" that almost a quarter of the city's children are living in poverty while cost of COVID is set to make it worse

Leeds City Council is to renew it campaign to tackle child poverty as its response to the COVID crisis comes to an end with latest figures revealing that almost a quarter of the city's children are living in poverty.

By Emma Ryan
Thursday, 14th October 2021, 4:45 am

Leeds City Council’s strategy, Thriving, first launched in 2019, brings together work being done across the city to help reduce the impact of poverty on children and young people.

It included the co-ordination of an emergency food response through the Local Welfare Support Scheme and free school meals in school holidays, providing help and advice to parents seeking employment and continuing to expand the city’s successful Healthy Holiday programmes.

But senior members of Leeds City Council's executive board will be warned that these measures are just "a sticking plaster on a gaping wound" and that actually, the authority cannot eradicate child poverty.

Coun Fiona Venner.

Next Wednesday (October 20) the Council’s Executive Board will be updated on the work of the Thriving strategy as latest figures show that almost a quarter of children (24 per cent) living in Leeds are living in poverty and that 75 per cent of these are living in working house-holds.

These figures were calculated after the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world and there are fears that the consequences of the pandemic on jobs, income, the economy and health will have swept over more families in Leeds than these figures suggest.

Researchers at Leeds City Council told the Yorkshire Evening Post that this 24 per cent (equivalent to 36,496 under 16s) is an increase of nine per cent in a year and compares to the national figure where 19 per cent of children under 16 lived in poverty.

Coun Fiona Venner, Executive Member for Adult and Children’s Social Care and Health Partnerships, said: “Since 2010, sustained government austerity has pushed 700,000 children across the country into poverty.

Child poverty levels in Leeds are shameful says councillor.

"In Leeds that figure now stands at 24 per cent of children living in the city and the vast majority (75per cent), live in working households. This is a shameful record and many more families have been swept into poverty in the past 18 months.

“We cannot eradicate child poverty in Leeds - to do that requires a national commitment from government that is clearly not on their agenda. But we can protect children from some of the

impacts of poverty and our Thriving strategy brings together multiple collaborative projects for that purpose. Our integrated approach targets those families who are being hit by national cuts to the social security system and which come at the same time as soaring energy prices heading into Winter.

“Our vision is to make Leeds the best city for children and young people to grow up in, and we will do everything in our power to reduce the impacts of child poverty. We will also continue to call on the Government to address why so many children in our country, one of the wealthiest in the world, are living in poverty.”

The report highlights the council’s ongoing support for the most vulnerable children and families in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic but also has an updated strategy which takes into account the need for the council to continue doing everything it can do to mitigate the impacts of child poverty as the end to COVID related support including furlough, the £20 uplift

in Universal Credit, and self-isolation payments all come to an end.

Coun Mary Harland, Executive Member for Communities added: "We are proud of the support we’ve seen across the city for the Council’s initiatives, particularly through the pandemic, including our emergency food provision, healthy holiday programmes, and employment support and we have welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of the

Household Support Fund.

“We will use this to best effect to support the most vulnerable in our city. But the reality is that this is a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. This type of short-term funding does not allow the

Council to put in place long term plans that can effectively lift children and families out of poverty.

“Instead of going ahead with their callous cut to Universal Credit that will take over £1,000 a year off working families, we need long term, sustainable funding from Government in order to do more preventative work to tackle the underlying causes of disadvantage.”

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