Nearly a third of Hartlepool children in 'low income' families
Nearly a third children in Hartlepool were living in families classed as having low incomes just before the coronavirus pandemic hit, new figures reveal.
With poverty hitting "devastatingly high" levels across the UK, charities are urging the Government to take action to prevent more families from falling into hardship when the crisis ends.
In Hartlepool 5,294 children aged under 16 were living in families with low incomes in 2019-20, Department for Work and Pensions data shows – an estimated 29% of all youngsters in the area and up from 26% the year before.
A family is defined as in low income if it earns less than 60% of the national median household income before housing costs are considered.
Families are included in the figures if they have claimed child benefit alongside another means of support, such as Universal Credit, tax credits or housing benefit, at some point in the year.
They were among 127,800 under-16s in low income families in the North East.
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at charity Action for Children, said: "The Government is in denial over child poverty which continues to rise and threatens to torpedo its flagship plans for levelling up.
"Experts have warned that child poverty will rise even further after the pandemic, with working families facing a double threat this coming winter to their living standards as unemployment peaks and Universal Credit is cut."
The Child Poverty Action Group, which is also calling for a boost to benefit payments, said the "dismal" figures show leaders need to take urgent action.
Chief executive Alison Garnham said: "Increasing child benefit by £10 per week would lift 450,000 children from poverty.
"We badly need a cross-government strategy to end child poverty and increasing child benefit should be the first action point."
Work and pensions secretary Thérèse Coffey said average household incomes saw their strongest annual growth for nearly 20 years in 2019-20, meaning families went into the pandemic on a "firm financial footing".
She added: "We have since increased our support with an unprecedented package of measures targeting those with the lowest incomes to help families through a difficult year.”