NEARLY a fifth of children in Warwick and Leamington were living in poverty in 2020-21, according to figures from a UK children’s charity.
A new online data tool launched by Action for Children shows 3,360 children in the constituency lived in households struggling to afford the essentials or enjoy a decent standard of living.
Across Warwickshire, over 9,300 food bank parcels for children were distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network in 2021-22 – up by over 110 per cent from 2015-16.
And the charity estimates that 3,800 children in Warwick and Leamington would be lifted out of poverty if the government increased child payments by £15 a week and abolished the benefit cap.
Director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, said: “Our new tool gives us an idea of the scale of the problem locally, even before the worst of the cost of living crisis hit and energy bills began to skyrocket last year.
“Child poverty scars childhoods and damages children’s life chances. Across Warwickshire too many children are facing its cruel realities. And it’s set to get worse, with falling living standards expected to push many more children into poverty and hardship in the coming years.
“For too many families, the amounts they receive through Universal Credit are just not enough to live on.
“By investing in our social security system, we can protect children living in households receiving Universal Credit in Warwickshire, and those whose childhoods will depend on it in the future.”
Action for Children said its analysis showed work was often not a route out of hardship for families where both parents or a single parent are already working full time, or have long-term sickness, disability or caring responsibilities.
The charity is calling for benefit levels to keep pace with prices and living standards and an independent review of the childcare system and how it is funded. It also wants to see changes to the childcare support available to families through Universal Credit to help more parents to return to work.
Matt Western, Labour MP for Warwick and Leamington, said: “This data from Action for Children is incredibly concerning. I have seen first-hand from visiting foodbanks across our towns, the huge increase in people having to use these services, including an increasing number of families. It is a damning indictment of the past 13 years that families have been stretched so thin they can no longer afford the essentials.
“We’re seeing across the country that the spiralling cost of childcare is preventing parents from returning to work. So many parents want to get back to work and their careers but are being held back by the Conservatives childcare model.
“The current childcare model won’t be fixed by a few small tweaks, it needs reform. Labour will deliver this reform and in turn, deliver for families across the country.”
Visit www.actionforchildren.uk/childhardship to open the tool and see the reality of child poverty and hardship across the region.