More than 2,500 children living below poverty line with freeze on benefits blamed

PUBLISHED: 16:00 12 February 2018

One in four Weston children is living below the breadline.

One in four Weston children is living below the breadline.

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Thousands of North Somerset children are living on the breadline, with Government freezes on benefits plunging families into poverty.

More than 2,500 youngsters in the Times’ patch are living in financially-challenged homes after housing costs, according to a report recently published by the End Child Poverty coalition (ECP).

Congresbury and Pill are the two North Somerset Council wards in the Times’ patch with the highest levels of deprivation, with one in five children gripped by a ‘poverty crisis’.

And, with North Somerset ranking as one of the most unequal local authority areas in the country, there are big disparities in deprivation levels across the district.

Wards like Nailsea East (four per cent), Clevedon Walton (four per cent), Easton-in-Gordano (five per cent), Gordano (seven per cent), and Portishead Redcliffe Bay (eight per cent) enjoy much lower levels of poverty, with affluence not spread evenly across the district.

The average level of child poverty across the Times’ patch is 12 per cent.

ECP chairman Dr Sam Royston believes ‘no family in modern Britain should be struggling to put food on the table, heat their homes and clothe their children’, and demanded changes in national policies.

He said: “We are calling on the Government to end the freeze on children’s benefits, and to invest in interest-free credit for low income families, to ensure poverty doesn’t result in spiralling debt.

“There can be little doubt the Government’s policy of freezing benefits despite rising prices is a major contributor to the emerging child poverty crisis.”

Pill ward councillor Don Davies said the figures are ‘no surprise’ with North Somerset ranking as the ‘third-most unequal area in the country’.

He believes Pill’s high levels of deprivation have been exacerbated by ‘cuts to children’s centres, health visitors, youth services and social workers’, plus cuts in benefits affected a ‘significant cohort in the village’.

Independent Cllr Davies added ‘wages and benefits not keeping pace’ with the cost of living in North Somerset, and a shortage of social housing in Pill has ‘forced’ families into privately-rented accommodation.

The ECP found the Weston parliamentary constituency was the most deprived area in North Somerset, with almost 6,000 children in poverty.

The report observed high levels of poverty in the centre of the town and on its former council estates.

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