A THIRD of all children in Hartlepool are currently living below the breadline according to shock new figures.
The town has one of the fastest growing rates of child poverty in the country according to civic chiefs –and alarmingly the problem shows no signs of slowing down.
Officials estimate that 33 per cent – 7,005 – of children in Hartlepool are living in poverty and despite efforts to reverse the problem it has got worse in the last two years.
The revelation came as a host of national organisations called on local health chiefs to double their efforts in working together to tackle the problem.
To underline the size of the issue in town, a Hartlepool charity that gives food handouts to struggling families says it has helped more than 1,400 children in the last year.
Coun Geoff Lilley, of the Putting Hartlepool First group, said: “It is shocking that in the 21st century we are seeing an increase in child poverty.
“Of the schools that I work with, it regularly comes up how they see the effects of child poverty.
“They speak about children going to school not being properly fed, and problems with school uniforms. We know it is there, it is a question of how we measure it.”
Child poverty has gone up from 28 per cent to 33 per cent in the last two years.
Gill Alexander, director of child and adult services at Hartlepool Council, said: “There are some quite astonishing statistics for Hartlepool.
“We have one of the fastest rates of increase in child poverty in the country.
“How agencies cooperate together to make this one of our biggest priorities is going to be critical in terms of addressing it.”
Their comments were in response to calls to Hartlepool’s Health and Wellbeing Board to do everything it can to improve children’s health by signing up to a Better Outcome for Children and Yopung People pledge.
The call came in a joint letter to the Hartlepool group, which includes the council and health leaders, from the Department of Health, Local Government Association, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and Public Health England.
The letter said: “We hope that signing up to the pledge will demonstrate a commitment to giving children the best start in life.
“We also hope it will start local conversations about how health and wellbeing boards, local authorities, health and wider partners can work together to improve health outcomes for children and young people and tackle the unacceptable variation in the quality of care for children and young people across the country and reduce health inequalities.”
Child poverty is measured by people’s incomes, and their general standards of living.
Coun Carl Richardson warned: “It is alright saying we agree with these things.
“We have been trying to eradicate child poverty for a number of years in Hartlepool, but it is getting worse.
“The point is we have got to mean what we say and carry it through.”
The Health and Wellbeing Board supported the idea of signing up to the pledge, but requested more information first before rubber-stamping its support for the scheme.