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Latest Northern Health Science Alliance News
Jan 24, 2023
North East child poverty reaches highest since 2001 as report uncovers impact of cost of living crisis A new report has warned that children living in the North of England are among the most vulnerable to rising living costs Bookmark A new report has warned that children living in the North of England are among the most vulnerable to rising living costs (Image: Handout) Group 28 Invalid emailSomething went wrong, please try again later. Sign Up We use your sign-up to provide content in the ways you've consented to and improve our understanding of you. This means that we may include adverts from us and third parties based on our knowledge of you. We also may change the frequency you receive our emails from us in order to keep you up to date and give you the best relevant information possible. As always you can unsubscribe at any time. More info Group 28 An extra 160,000 children were living in poverty in the North compared to the rest of England during the pandemic, a report looking at the cost of living crisis has found. It's among a number of saddening statistics uncovered by the Child Poverty and the Cost of Living Crisis report released today from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Child of the North. It found that children living in the North of England are among the most vulnerable to rising living costs, and child poverty, including fuel poverty and food insecurity, is higher in the North than the rest of England. Child poverty is now the highest it has been since 2000/2001 in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber. Statistics found that 34% of children were living in poverty in the North during the pandemic, compared with 28% in the rest of England. And 23% of children in England who are food insecure miss out on free school meals as only families with a very low income are eligible to apply. The report also found that families in the North are more likely to be living in poor quality, damp homes. Before living costs started to rise, over 98,500 homes in the North already had some form of damp and 1.1 million homes in the North failed 'decent homes' criteria, which sets the minimum standards that social homes are required to meet. Before the current crisis, around one million households in the North were fuel poor, proportionally more households than in the rest of England – 15% in the North compared to 12%. And the standing charge for energy prepayment meter customers in Yorkshire and the North East is higher (at around £3.80 per week) than the UK average (of £3.60 per week). The report, which was prepared by experts from northern organisations and universities for the APPG Child of the North, warns that for many families the current economic chaos will deepen an enduring child poverty crisis in the region. South Shields MP and Co-Chair APPG Child of the North, Emma Lewell-Buck, said: "Whilst poverty is, sadly, not a new experience for many children in the North, the scale and severity of deprivation is now unprecedented. As the cost of living crisis worsens, vulnerable children and families, especially in the North, are being pushed to the edge. "This report outlines the injustice of deprivation in our country and presents policy measures that, if implemented, could ensure that children in our region are never left hungry, cold or without." Ms Lewell-Buck joins report authors who have issued a stark warning to government that rising living costs will lead to immediate and lifelong harms for children: worsening physical and mental health outcomes; undermining children's learning, social wellbeing and education; and risking lower lifelong health and productivity. Cheadle MP Co-Chair APPG Child of the North, Mary Robinson, said: "The findings of the report serve as a stark reminder of the devastating reality of child poverty in the North. It is heartbreaking to hear stories of those living this reality and the uncertainty of what the future holds. What is clear is the need for immediate action to tackle the crisis before long-term harm is caused to the children of the North." Kate Pickett, Professor of Epidemiology, University of York, and co-author of the new report, added: "Many areas across the North of England have seen rising child poverty in recent years. As economic stress is pushing up the price of food, energy and fuel, more and more families are having to make difficult decisions on how to spend their money. "We risk seeing more children falling deeper into poverty if measures aren't implemented by government to adequately help those living in areas that are the most vulnerable to rising living costs." The report also analysed the impact the cost of living crisis was having on families in England and found that local authorities in the North are the most vulnerable to rising living costs across the whole of England. Many families with children are already going without essentials, getting behind with essential bill payments, or taking on debt, reflecting real harm, stress and suffering. The current crisis raises particular risks for young children and babies as families struggle to make ends meet. Research shows that each 1% increase in child poverty is associated with an extra 5.8 infant deaths per 100,000 live births. While the shame, anxiety and worry faced by young people living in families on a low-income can make it difficult to concentrate in school, to feel included, and to afford the resources needed to learn well and join in with friends, which undermines educational outcomes and social wellbeing. David Taylor Robinson, Professor of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool, and co-author of the report, said: "Poverty is the key driver of inequalities between children in the North and the rest of the country, which we know leads to worse physical and mental health, poorer educational attainment and life chances. All children, no matter where they are born, should be entitled to the same life chances. "However, we know this sadly isn't the case. The pandemic contributed to widening inequalities and now the rising cost of living will place further strain on families with children. "Parents across the North are having to go without meals to feed their children, and the situation will only get worse unless policies are put in place to ensure families have enough support to keep their children fed and warm." The APPG brings together policy makers and experts in child outcomes from across the country to find solutions to the disparities suffered by children in the North of England. The group was launched following the publication of The Child of the North report, produced by the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and N8 Research Partnership. A suite of recommendations to government have been laid out by the report authors to ensure families with children have enough money and security of income to meet basic needs, such as healthy food to eat and warm homes. Some of the recommendations include: Increase benefits in line with inflation at the earliest opportunity and commit to ensure that benefits rise in a timely way in line with inflation long-term Immediately pause the Universal Credit five-week minimum wait, sanctions and deductions for families for the next six months when this can be reviewed Expand Free School Meals (FSMs) to all children whose families are in receipt of universal credit, as the simplest and most effective way of reaching all children affected by poverty and food insecurity, with an ambition of achieving FSMs for all primary pupils Ensure consistent support so that children do not go hungry during school holidays Introduce specific financial support for families using prepayment meters (including action by Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the energy regulator on standing charges and energy debt) and suspend prepayment meter installations over the winter Hannah Davies, Health Inequalities lead for the Northern Health Science Alliance and report co-author, said: "It comes as no surprise that areas across the North of England are regarded as being the most vulnerable to the cost of living crisis. The combination of increasing inflation, more people living in poverty, in lower paid jobs or unable to work, in receipt of social security support, and already facing high levels of financial stress and debt, makes it extremely difficult for families to absorb new shocks on costs. We urge the government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of children and to consider the clear recommendations put forward in this report." Sophie Balmer, End Child Poverty Youth Ambassador, said: "Having grown up living in a family on a low income, I want to use my voice to explain the reality of what it's like for hundreds of thousands of children across the North. Even now I am at university and relatively financially secure, the worry doesn't leave. I remember the unbearable anxiety and how it all impacted on my life. "The greatest impact was on my education. It isn't just missing a meal or feeling hungry during the day, it’s the worry of how your sister’s school trip will be paid for, or how you haven't seen your mam eat a proper meal in days - all going through your head in a chemistry lesson. "It creates anxiety. And when combined with the stress of school, this explains the impact on educational attainment for children living in poverty. The pressure for change is much more intense at the minute. The government needs to help families. It doesn't feel like an ask anymore. It’s an absolute need." Read next:
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