Tuesday, 21 October 2014

One-in-three local children in poverty

New figures released by the End Child Poverty campaign have revealed a shocking level of deprivation in the Three Towns.

Across North Ayrshire as a whole, 27% of children are living in poverty, one of the highest-levels in Scotland: only Dundee and Glasgow record higher numbers at 28% and 30% respectively.  However, when the figures are broken-down to reflect the areas covered by North Ayrshire Council Wards, Saltcoats and Stevenston are recorded jointly as having 35% of children growing up in households living below the poverty line.  Shockingly, this represents every third child living in poverty.

The figure for Ardrossan is affected by the town being linked in a Council Ward with the more affluent Isle of Arran.  However, the Ward still records a relatively high figure for child poverty at 22%.  With Arran stripped out, the figure for Ardrossan is likely to be nearer that of neighbouring towns Saltcoats and Stevenston.

Recently, the3towns.today revealed the North Ayrshire Foodbank, located at the Church of the Nazerene in Ardrossan’s Glasgow Street, has seen more and more local people asking for emergency help to stave-off hunger.  Across Scotland over the past 12 months, foodbanks have seen a 400% rise in the number of people referred for help by frontline care professionals, such as doctors, social workers, health visitors or the police. 

One of the factors contributing to the sharp rise in foodbank use is the growing number of those caught in the poverty trap despite being in employment.  The UK’s low-wage economy, with hundreds-of-thousands of workers on the minimum wage and zero-hours contracts, which do not provide any guaranteed hours, has seen soaring numbers of those in work but paid so little they need to claim benefits and turn to foodbanks for emergency support in order to feed their families.  The new figures published by the End Child Poverty campaign show that, across North Ayrshire, there are currently over 3,000 children living in poverty despite at least one adult in the household being in employment.

Local politicians united in condemning child poverty levels in the Three Towns and calling for action, but have differing opinions on who is to blame for the situation.

Katy Clark MP said, “The last Labour Government made real progress in reducing poverty across the United Kingdom, taking 1.5-million children out of absolute poverty.  Sadly, this progress has stalled since the current [Tory-Lib Dem] government took office and we can now see the devastating impact that this has had on children in North Ayrshire.”

Although the UK government retains powers over the economy, employment, taxation and social security, Ms Clark, Labour MP for North Ayrshire & Arran, also hit out at the SNP Scottish Government, saying the new child poverty figures demonstrate that “the Scottish Government have failed to give Scottish families the support and protection which they require... Scottish Ministers should be using the powers that they already have to provide effective assistance to those on low-incomes.”

However, Margaret Burgess, SNP MSP for Cunninghame South, explained what the Scottish Government has actually done to help mitigate UK Government cuts that are a major factor in the increasing numbers of children and families being forced into poverty, “Despite only having the limited powers of devolution, we have already spent millions-of-pounds directly helping people affected by UK welfare reforms, but we will not rest at that.  We are determined to put in place preventative measures to stop future generations from feeling the effects of Westminster’s unfair reforms.”

Mrs Burgess noted, “Westminster has an absolutely shameful record on poverty, and with more Tory welfare cuts and austerity measures coming down the line, the situation is only going to get worse.
“Independently compiled international data shows the UK is already the fourth most-unequal society in the developed world, while current projections indicate that proposed Westminster cuts to welfare budgets could push up to 100,000 more Scottish children into poverty.”

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