THE shocking levels of child poverty in Wigan’s most deprived areas have been laid bare by a new report.
Several wards are approaching levels of 40 per cent of its youngsters living below the poverty line.
And the new research, released by the Campaign to End Child Poverty, reveals a stark wealth gap between neighbouring areas across the borough.
Council bosses today reaffirmed their commitment to tackle the widespread problem, which has now been highlighted by a number of similar reports in recent years.
Areas such as Pemberton (38.98 per cent), Ince (33.91) Atherton (35.88) and Leigh West (38.56) are ranked as the borough’s worst in contrast to Orrell (12.51), Standish (12.18) and Lowton East (12.59).
Neighbouring wards such as Pemberton and Winstanley (9.23) reveal families living in an adjacent streets may be facing vastly different financial straits.
Coun Jo Platt, cabinet member for children and families at Wigan Council, said: “We’re working closely with those affected to help them access the help and support available, including access to debt and money advice, and training.
“We’ve also developed a new council tax reduction scheme to make up for the shortfall in government funding, which means households with children under five are protected from the cuts.
“Last year we launched our pay day lenders campaign which aims to educate residents about the dangers of getting into debt and earlier this year, we teamed up with debt advice agency GamCare to deliver free counselling and advice sessions for those with gambling addictions.
“Through our local child poverty strategy we will continue to work closely with our partners to tackle child poverty.”
The issue of child poverty has sparked lengthy discussion at meetings of the full council throughout this year with the ruling Labour group placing responsibility for the figures at the doorstep of the coalition Government’s welfare reforms.
And although members across the political divide agreed urgent action was needed, there have been differing views on why the situation has reached such extreme levels.
Coun Gary Wilkes, leader of Wigan Independent Network, the official opposition, told the Evening Post: “Labour have been in power for decades in Wigan and Leigh and yet we still see thousands of children living in poverty, its about time they invested some of the millions of pounds it has in it’s reserves into addressing child poverty instead of 60 minute make overs on Wigan town centre”
The borough-wide average rate for children living in poverty is 24.94 per cent, comparing favourably to Bolton (29.29) but worse than Warrington (19.29).
The research classifies children as living in poverty if their families are in receipt of out of work benefits or tax credits where household income is below 60 per cent of median income and take into account relative housing costs.