New figures reveal the North East now has the highest rate of child poverty in the country and campaigners say the study should be a ‘serious wake-up call’ for the Government.

Research carried out by Loughborough University for the End Child Poverty coalition indicates that two in five babies, children and young people across the North East (38 per cent) were living below the poverty line in 2020/21, after housing costs were taken into account, rising from 37 per cent the year before.

The North East has also continued to experience by far the steepest increase in child poverty across the UK in recent years, moving from being just below the national average in 2014/15 to having the highest rate of any nation or region of the country by 2020/21.

North Durham MP Kevan Jones said: "Depressingly this report shines a spotlight on the real impact of the Governments austerity policies over the last 12 years and shows the hollowness of it's levelling up policy which is little more than spin and PR. "Disproportionate cuts to North East budgets, which was already the UKs poorest region as made the region poorer and its effects will be felt for generations to come.

"This as not happened by accident its a direct result of the Governments policy decisions."

The Northern Echo: The North East now has the highest child poverty rates in the country The North East now has the highest child poverty rates in the country

Overall child poverty rates in the North East have risen by almost half – from 26 per cent to 38 per cent in the space of those six years; during a time when child poverty fell slightly, by two percentage points, across the country.

Anna Turley, chairwoman of the North East Child Poverty Commission, said: “These new figures are deeply alarming.

“Rather than being levelled up, it’s clear that inequalities for children and young people across the North East are widening even further, and this must surely act as a serious wake-up call for both the current and incoming Government about the scale and urgency of the child poverty crisis we face.

“Sadly, this research will come as no surprise to the many hundreds of organisations working tirelessly across our region to help families keep their heads above water, with all reporting even worse levels of hardship as people, both in and out of work, now grapple with the soaring cost of living.

“The single most important step the Government could take to improve the lives and opportunities of children across our region is to commit to a clear plan, backed up with decisive action, to tackle child poverty.

“Babies, children and young people here in the North East deserve so much better than this, and they don’t have time to wait.”

Every local authority area in the North East reported significant increases in child poverty rates over the same period, with Newcastle, Gateshead, Redcar and Cleveland and Sunderland seeing the most dramatic rises since 2014.

Six of the region’s local authorities also now feature in the list of the twenty council areas with the highest child poverty rates in the whole of the UK: Newcastle (42.2 per cent), Middlesbrough (41.2 per cent), Sunderland (39.7 per cent), Redcar and Cleveland (39.3 per cent), South Tyneside (39.1 per cent) and Hartlepool (39.0 per cent).

The new research also confirms the North East Parliamentary seats with the highest levels of child poverty with at least 40 per cent of children now growing up poor in one third of the region’s constituencies: Middlesbrough (50.7 per cent), Newcastle Central (47.8 per cent), Gateshead (42.2 per cent), South Shields (42.1 per cent), Washington and Sunderland West (40.7 per cent), Easington (40.6 per cent), Redcar (40.6 per cent), Sunderland Central (40.2 per cent), and Bishop Auckland (40.0 per cent).

The Northern Echo: The figures have been described as 'alarming' by campaignersThe figures have been described as 'alarming' by campaigners (Image: Save the Children)

The report concludes that: “The rate of child poverty after housing costs in the North East now outstrips London, which suggests that the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda has a long way to go where child poverty is concerned.”

The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, said: “We all want a North East in which every child is valued, is able to thrive and is supported to reach their potential, but the new research shows we are now even further away from achieving that ambition than we were before.

“Cruel and unfair policies like the two-child limit are resulting only in growing numbers of families going without the basics – which means children across our region are having their life chances restricted and childhoods damaged from the moment they are born.

“This is not right in a compassionate and just society like ours – and the Government must act urgently to reverse this situation, which should be of profound concern for all of us in the North East.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the Government has reduced the Universal Credit taper rate from 63 per cent to 55 per cent, and increased work allowances by £500 per annum.

The department said it is effectively a tax cut for the lowest paid in society worth around £1.9 billion in 2022-23. 

A Government spokesperson said: “The latest figures show there were 500,000 fewer children in absolute poverty after housing costs than in 2009/10.

"But we recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting the 8 million most vulnerable families with at least £1,200 of direct payments, starting this week.

“Through our £37bn support package we are saving the typical employee over £330 a year through a tax cut this month, allowing people on Universal Credit to keep £1,000 more of what they earn and in April we significantly increased the National Living Wage to £9.50, the largest ever rise.”

“In addition, we have expanded access to free school meals more than any other government in recent decades, while vulnerable families in England are being supported by the Government’s Household Support Fund – which was recently boosted by another £500million.”


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