New data compiled by the End Child Poverty campaign highlights the shocking impact that Conservative austerity has had on child poverty in the country, with the majority of children in some parts of the country growing up in poverty. The data covers the period between 2014-15 and 2018-19, some of the peak years of Government austerity.
The research shows the stark impact that London’s high housing costs has on child poverty, with the two Tower Hamlets constituencies (Bethnal Green & Bow, and Poplar & Limehouse) both listed in the top 6 constituencies where high housing costs pushed a large percentage of children into poverty.
Tower Hamlets Council funds a range of tackling poverty measures, including providing a Council Tax Reduction Scheme with council tax reductions of up to and including 100% depending on circumstances (meaning the most disadvantaged don’t have to pay a single penny of council tax), of which nearly 32,000 households in the borough receive some level of council tax discount. The council also funds holiday hunger programmes and provides universal free school meals (FSM) to all primary school pupils, going significantly beyond the Government-funded FSM programme which only funds FSM for some children.
Last week, the Government refused to back a Labour motion in the House of Commons which would have seen FSM continue to be funded over the half-term holiday. A national campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford has seen local councils and community groups pledge to step in to fill the gap left by the Government.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, said: “This new data builds on what we already knew about the devastating impact of austerity on the poorest children in our society. The figures also show the huge impact that London’s high housing costs have on child poverty, especially here in Tower Hamlets. The Government has failed our children and young people.”
Councillor Mufeedah Bustin, Cabinet Member leading on Social Inclusion, said: “As a council we step in to fill the gaps left by the Conservatives, offering lifelines to the poorest people across Tower Hamlets. I’m very proud of the Tackling Poverty work we do to help the families that have been forgotten by the Government.”
Councillor Danny Hassell, Cabinet Member for Children and Schools, said: “The Tories vote against free school meals goes to show their attitude towards the most disadvantaged children and families, leaving them to sink-or-swim at a time when they need help more than ever. It is astonishing that the Government has completely given up their responsibility and left it up to local councils, charities and businesses to stop kids going hungry over the holidays.”