Child poverty is worse in Hastings than anywhere else in the south east of England and the problem is accelerating.
According to a study conducted by the *End Child Poverty coalition and Loughborough University Hastings has the highest child poverty rate in the south east of England and it has increased more over the past four years than anywhere else in the south east.
According to the report child poverty has increased from 18.2 per cent in 2014/15 to 25.5 per cent in 2018/19 an increase of more than seven per cent and it says children are being ‘cut adrift’.
Hastings Borough Council’s (HBC) leader, Councillor Kim Forward, says: “We are incredibly saddened to see such an increase in child poverty in Hastings, but we are not surprised; the rate has been high and rising for years.
“It is especially worrying that these figures indicate rises before Covid-19 hit us. We are still working out what the long-term effects of this pandemic will be, but we know that child poverty levels are very likely to continue to rise.
“It is not acceptable for so many of our children to be experiencing such poverty and it should not be acceptable to any government or any society.
“Although years of austerity and cuts to key services have very much limited what we as a council can do, we are still committed to doing everything possible, with our partners, to tackle child poverty.”
Anna Feuchtwang, Chair of End Child Poverty and Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “We may all be experiencing the storm of Coronavirus together, but we are not all in the same boat. The government’s data shows the extent to which over the past four years, children in low income families have been cut adrift and are already experiencing unacceptable hardship through cuts and freezes to the benefits system.
“Our country’s children are now at severe risk of being swept deeper into poverty as a result of the pandemic and lockdown. This is why we are asking the government to strengthen the social security system which is there to hold us steady during tough times, by immediately increasing household income for those least well-off.
“Ending child poverty must be at the heart of the Government’s plan for economic recovery, so that when this crisis is over all children can enjoy a life free from poverty in which they are healthy, can thrive at school and have opportunities for the future.”
Natalie Williams, Community Engagement Director at King’s Church, which runs Hastings Foodbank, said today: “It is really troubling to see Hastings with an increasing level of child poverty. At the foodbank and other projects we run, we see so many desperate situations across the town and we’ve seen huge increases in need over the last three years. The coronavirus crisis has made this worse.
“In April, for example, the parcels we gave out included food for 821 local children. There is a lot of good work going on across Hastings and St Leonards to support people in poverty, but there’s a lot more work for us all to do together to stop people being swept into poverty and trapped in it.”
Carole Dixon, Chief Executive at Education Futures Trust, says: “These figures unfortunately confirm what we see through our day to day work in Hastings. Families living in poverty face an uphill battle and parents struggle to meet their children’s needs. Covid-19 has added to the inequality, and life for some is bleak.
“We want to see our children succeed, but the widening gap makes it difficult for them to share the aspirations of those who do not face these challenges. We need to break the cycle of poverty to provide a better future. This will require long term investment in the local structures and organisations, where the problems are understood, and solutions can be found.”
Rob Lee, leader of the opposition Conservative group on HBC told Hastings In Focus: “These figures go to show that despite being in control of HBC for ten years Labour have done nothing for the poorest in the town.
“They complain about a lack of government funding while they waste huge sums of money on the demolishing of Harold Place toilets or a Solar power scheme that will not happen.
“The Labour administration in Hastings has not achieved even modest improvements in the living standards of its residents.”
Ms Forward, added: “Last year the council passed a unanimous motion to help tackle child poverty and the actions we are pursuing include calling on the government to end short term funding through competitive grants (such as homelessness provision) and other initiatives and return to providing us with adequate long-term support based on local needs.
“It is vital that this short-term piecemeal funding approach to fundamental issues such as this is stopped. There must to be a commitment from the government to meaningful, secure, long-term funding, to allow an effective strategy that can make a real difference to be delivered.
“We are calling for a community conference to consider how best to tackle poverty, learning from the impact of our current anti-poverty strategy and working towards a longer-term ten-year approach which sees partners planning joint action more strategically.
“The council is already committed to funding which supports voluntary sector advice and support agencies in 2020/21 but doing so in future years may be impossible without sufficient funding from the government.
“We encourage others to join us and support the day of action on child poverty in Hastings on August 1st, led by Unite the Community and other local voluntary organisations.
“Our motion made our position clear, and we emphasise that we will continue to do all that we can, working with partners to help tackle the issue of child poverty in Hastings. At the same time, we call on the government to do much more; we simply can’t do this on our own. We surely all agree that we must eradicate child poverty in our town.”
*End Child Poverty coalition was set up in 2001 by a group of UK children’s charities, social justice groups, faith-groups, trade unions and others concerned about what they considered the unacceptably high levels of child poverty in the UK.