‘Lack of national will’ to tackle child poverty in Leeds, senior councillor warns
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Fiona Venner, Leeds City Council’s Cabinet member for children and young people, said the problem was getting worse amid spiralling prices for households and called on the government to do more.
Figures first published in October last year showed 24 per cent of kids in the city were living in poverty.
A council report this week revealed that the number of Universal Credit (UC) claimants has doubled in some parts of Leeds since the start of the pandemic.
In Gipton and Harehills, more than 20 per cent of working-age adults were claiming UC at the end of last year, compared to just over 10 per cent in March 2020.
In Burmantofts and Richmond Hill, the claimant count has risen to 17 per cent, from a pre-Covid level of around 11 per cent.
The knock-on effect has seen more children becoming eligible for free school meals.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of senior councillors next week, where the issue will be discussed, Councillor Venner said: “Child poverty is not inevitable. When the government prioritises it, significant progress can be made.
“Of course, the government chose to cut universal credit last October. And benefits have not risen in line with inflation in April, which means another cut in real terms.”
The government said last month it was creating a network of “family hubs” to help hard-up parents access important services, adding it had ploughed more funding into its Supporting Families programme.
But Coun Venner said: “We can and will work together as a city to break down the barriers that poverty creates, but we can’t entirely lift children and young people out of poverty – that takes a national will that is lacking.
“It is shameful that nearly a quarter of children are living in poverty here in Leeds.
“We will continue to do everything we can as a city to limit its impacts and to put pressure on the government to take action.”