THOUSANDS of families in Darlington are living below the poverty line, according to new figures released by the council.
Almost 11,000 adults and 3,400 children under 18 are living in homes with an income of less than £13,312 a year – the official EU marker for poverty.
Some 3,000 pensioners are also living below the poverty line in the town.
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A report prepared for Darlington Borough Council’s adult and housing scrutiny committee called The Scope of Poverty in Darlington, Welfare Reforms and the Partnership Response, found that the profile and geographic distribution of those living in the town is changing.
Of the families living in poverty in Darlington, 66 per cent of them have at least one person in work.
People living in wards close to the town centre, in Haughton and in the eastern side of the town are still most likely to slip into poverty, the report shows.
However, as the number of working families affected by poverty increases, the report notes that some living in parts of the town seen as affluent are now struggling to make ends meet each month and have lost ‘financial resilience’.
The report notes: “Evidence from agencies working with this group of newly poor highlight a range of different problems faced by them.
“For some families their poverty is less obvious as they may apparently have assets but little disposable income to spend on food, heating and clothes.
“Advice agencies report that families have lost financial resilience with savings dwindling and important equipment going un-replaced.
“The consequence of this is that many families live on the edge of being able to cope and it only takes a small additional expense to place them in crisis.”
A task group set up last year to look into poverty in Darlington has made a number of recommendations, including the creation of a number of ‘one-stop shops’ where people can get access to food banks, credit unions and housing, benefits and debt advice.
Work will also be done on increasing people’s employability and improving the skills of those already in low-paid work to help them to earn more.
The report will be discussed by the scrutiny committee at the town hall on Tuesday, March 4, at 9.30am.