Call for action over Hartlepool child poverty figures

Over a third of youngsters in Hartlepool are classed as living in poverty
Over a third of youngsters in Hartlepool are classed as living in poverty

The number of children living in poverty in Hartlepool has increased in recent years and now stands at just under 35%.

According to the action group End Child Poverty Now, 34.13% of youngsters in the town are classed as living in poverty.

Councillor Brenda Harrison

Councillor Brenda Harrison

That is an increase from the figure of 32% in 2015.

Councillors described the situation as ‘shocking’ and a ‘disgrace’ as they called for more action to tackle the problem.

Hartlepool Borough Council is currently reviewing its Child and Family Poverty Strategy.

The figures define poverty as households with less than 60% of the average UK household income.

Councillor Brenda Harrison recognised there was a lot of work going on in the town to tackle the problem but said more was needed.

“Nearly 35% of our children in poverty is just a disgrace,” she said.

“We really need to get our heads together and do something which will address the whole issue more than we already are.”

The council last reviewed its policy in 2016 but says due to ongoing governmental changes such as welfare reform means it needs to be reviewed.

A consultation is underway involving stakeholders including council departments, voluntary and community sector organisations and schools.

Examples of work in Hartlepool to tackle child poverty include the Council Tax Reduction Scheme aimed at low income working families, free school uniforms, holiday hunger funding and adult education programmes to help people into employment.

And the Hartlepool Food Network sees fresh food would otherwise go to waste collected from supermarkets and redistributed.

Councillor Stephen Thomas praised the strong package of projects but added: “An absolute disgrace in the fifth richest economy in the 21st Century, absolutely shocking.”

Council leader Christopher Akers-Belcher said the figure may not be so high if the government reinstated millions of pounds a year it had withdrawn from the authority.

Coun Shane More asked how the council supports increasing numbers of poorer people being relocated to Hartlepool from large cities.

Sally Robinson, the council’s director of children’s and joint commissioning services, said the authority is not notified but tries to keep track of people they come into contact with. Coun Akers-Belcher recommended linking up with the Department of Work and Pensions to improve information.