The number of children living in poverty in Luton is “deeply worrying”, MPs said after new figures were released.
Research from the End Child Poverty campaign found 28 per cent of children live below the poverty line in Luton South, and 25 per cent in Luton North, compared to a national average of 20 per cent.
Luton South MP Gavin Shuker and Luton North MP Kelvin Hopkins said government cuts and high levels of unemployment are the cause of the crisis.
Mr Hopkins said: “The fact that in modern Britain we have food banks to feed people is something I would not have believed when I was a young person. I would have thought by now we would have had a country with much better provision to prevent poverty.
“It’s deeply worrying. There are cases of malnutrition, children living in houses which are cold because parents can’t afford to get houses heated...we should care for our children first and foremost.”
Mr Hopkins blamed the way the economy has been run in the past 30 years, and said Luton has higher unemployment and much lower incomes than neighbouring areas such as Central Beds, where child poverty is at 13 per cent.
He said: “We need a dramatic change in government policy. THe governemnt has got austerity cuts fundamentally wrong. I argue this case in parliament constantly, we need to look at what we did after the Second World War. The country ran at full employment level for 30 years. The way to get poverty down is to get people back into work so we have full employemnt again. Austerity measures don’t work.”
Rates of child poverty differ across Luton, with Northwell being the most deprived ward where 38 per cent of children are in poverty, closely followed by Farley and Dallow at 34 per cent, South and Biscot at 33 per cent, and Leagrave and Lewsey at 31 per cent.
MP Gavin Shuker, who is soon to become a father for the first time, said: “Child poverty is quite clearly becoming a pressing concern in Luton. We are seeing the cost of living continue to rise for Luton’s families while wages have been frozen or jobs lost altogether.”
He said breakfast clubs run by schools and local organisations support the poorest children, but they fight a constant battle as more cuts are imposed by the governemtnt,
He said: “Sadly, this means the pain will continue, if not worsen. Benefit changes being introduced later this year is expected to affect up to 20,000 families and will put 50 per cent of Luton’s households into the poverty bracket. The government is failing our poorest families and most vulnerable children, at a time when they are giving £40,000 tax breaks to millionaires. It is about time they reassessed their priorities.”
Living in poverty means not having enough money to maintain an acceptable standard of living.
UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world.
Mr Hopkins said: “The gulf between rich and poor in Britain is much higher than in comparable countries such as Scandanavia because they run their economies in a way that is much more beneficial.
“Of course the government and local authorities should care for impoverished children, but they need funding to be able to do it. While unemployment remains high the tax reserves are low and the number of people living on benefits is highter than it should be. With unemployment as it is things may not change – not without a drastic change in government policy.”
> What do you think?