Kids stuck in poverty trap at Christmas

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THE DARK Dickensian days of children living in squalor in Victorian workhouses might be over. But hundreds of Hucknall youngsters will still spend this Christmas in poverty-stricken homes.

Alarming figures have revealed that an increasing number of children are living below the poverty line.

Not only will they miss out on Christmas presents but their parents are also unable to afford basic necessities, including good food and new clothes.

The latest statistics show that in 2009, almost one of every three youngsters living in the Hucknall East ward was classed as living in poverty.

The exact figure is 28.2% — an increase of 2.9% on the statistic in 2008.

Across the rest of the town, child-poverty levels are also on the up.

Experts say this is mainly because Hucknall, like the rest of the country, has been hit by the economic recession, with the cost of living and the rate of unemployment on the increase.

In Hucknall West, 21.1% of children were classed as being poverty-hit in 2009 — an increase of 1.9% on the previous year.

In Hucknall North, the figure is 17.6% and in Hucknall Central 16.3%. These are respective increases of 1.1% and 2.5% on the 2008 rate.

Only Hucknall Central is not classed as a hotspot area on the basis of a threshold of 16.7%.

Nationally, the rate of poverty among kids was 21.3%, while in the East Midlands it was 19.1% and in Ashfield 23%. In Nottinghamshire, there are an estimated 185,135 under-19s in cash-strapped households.

Hucknall’s Conservative MP, Mark Spencer, agreed it was heartbreaking that some children in Hucknall will spend Christmas in poverty.

“You look at the news and see bankers and footballers earning millions, and there are children out there whose families can’t even afford to eat,” he said.

“This is one of those difficult problems that builds up and builds up and cannot be tackled overnight.

“It is like an oil tanker that cannot just be turned around. It will take years and more than a generation to solve.

“Clearly the majority of parents are very responsible and put their children first but cannot make ends meet.

“However there are some parents out there who are not like that, and their children suffer.

“It comes down to creating sustainable, reasonably-paid jobs that help families climb out of poverty.”

As reported by the Dispatch earlier this year, Notts County Council, in conjunction with district and borough councils, including Ashfield, has launched a first-ever child and family poverty strategy.

A focus of the scheme is creating jobs and helping families who struggle to pay their gas and electricity bills.

Another priority is improving education attainment among poorer children in Nottinghamshire. A strategy for this, entitled ‘Closing The Gap’, is currently being put together by the county council.

Coun John Wilmott (Lab), of Hucknall, who is deputy leader of Ashfield District Council, said he and his colleagues were committed to tackling child poverty.

He said: “Poverty is brought into focus at this time of the year, and I am very concerned about the figures.

“Life is good for a lot of people and those who have should be able to give to those who have not. It’s a fundamental part of life.

“Everyone has to pull together and help where they can.”