Crisis as almost 19,000 Wigan children are now in poverty

Child poverty has risen in Wigan over the last five years with almost 19,000 minors now below the breadline, shock new research has found.
The number of children in poverty is on the riseThe number of children in poverty is on the rise
The number of children in poverty is on the rise

The data from the End Child Poverty coalition shows the scale of the challenge local government and councils across the North West including in our own borough, face to end child poverty.

And there are fears that it can only worsen as the borough andcountry battle the worst recession in living memory caused by the coronavirus pandemic and measures to tackle it.

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The research, by Loughborough University, shows that levels of child poverty in Wigan increased from 17,541 (29.1 per cent) in 2014/15 to 18,780 (30.8 per cent) in 2018/19.

It comes after figures earlier in the year from the Department for Work and Pensions showed that 20.2 per cent of children under 16 were living in families with relative low incomes in 2018-19.

That was an increase compared to the 19.6 per cent recorded in 2017-18, and means 12,368 children in the area now come from low-income families.

Child poverty levels across the North West have risen in almost every local area in the past four years, with the highest rises being seen in Blackburn with Darwen, Oldham, Pendle, Manchester, Burnley, Hyndburn, Bolton and Rochdale.

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Charity The Joseph Rowntree Foundation think tank said the five-week wait for Universal Credit wasn’t helping the situaton and called for that to end. While they also called for the suspenson of the No Recourse to Public Funds condition which stops many families from accessing benefits, and make a long-term commitment to local welfare assistance.

Sam Royston, director of policy at The Children’s Society, said the coronavirus crisis has had a “devastating impact”, hitting low income families particularly hard.

He said: “This data is so shocking, it shows that over the last five years thousands of children across the North West have been pulled into poverty in part because of unmanageable increases in rental costs.

“That is thousands more children living in households where parents struggle to make ends meet. This was the picture before the devastating impact of the Coronavirus crisis, which we know has hit low income families particularly hard.”

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Colette Dutton, Wigan Council’s director for children’s services, said the council is committed to ensuring that families who need help and support receive it from its universal, early help and statutor services.

She said: “We know that many of our families face significant challenges, particularly at the moment. As a council our priority has always been to put in measures in place to ensure every child and young person can have the best start in life.

“The council is committed to ensuring that families who need our help and support receive from our Universal, Early Help and statutory services at the time they need it.

“Our Start Well programme is designed to provide integrated, wrap around care to a range of families, working in partnership with other key agencies who work with our families, such as schools and GPs.

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“Through our Start Well offer, families can access a range of support, whether that be online, in person or in their local community. As part of the Start Well offer, families can receive support with debt and money management, housing and benefits, as well as accessing support with healthy eating on a budget and free access to play and physical activity.”

She added: “We also know that our children’s services are just part of families’ support network, which is why we also strive to support and work closely with others who are helping our families, including those working to build capacity in our communities, local charities, and local facilities.”