Hartlepool councillor calls for changes to tackle child poverty

Child poverty is on the increase (image posed by an actress)
Child poverty is on the increase (image posed by an actress)

A councillor will seek a support for a change to council decision making to do more to tackle rising child poverty levels in Hartlepool.

Independent Hartlepool councillor Jonathan Brash has put forward a motion to Thursday night’s full council meeting.

Jonathan Brash

Jonathan Brash

It seeks to include a new child poverty assessment when the council makes budget and key financial decisions to show what difference those decisions could make to child poverty levels in town.

Just over a third of Hartlepool children (31%) are classed as living in poverty and for 0 to 19-year-olds the figure is 33%.

The poverty rate is higher than North East and national averages has continued to rise year on year since 2007.

Coun Brash said: “Tackling child poverty is, for me, the single most important objective for the local authority and I know virtually all councillors will agree with that.

Tackling child poverty is, for me, the single most important objective for the local authority

Councillor Jonathan Brash

“What this proposal does is ensure that before decisions on how we spend tax payers’ money are taken we consider whether it will help or hinder the fight against child poverty.

“So for example, each year at the budget meeting in February we need to see an impact assessment of all budget measures, like the council tax increase on child poverty. That doesn’t currently happen.”

In this year’s budget, the council agreed to create a £500,000 child and family poverty reserve.

Coun Brash added: “I think initiatives like that are excellent and I absolutely welcome them, but now I believe we need to go further and make tacking child poverty a part of every decision because, as welcome as it is, one-off measures will not solve the problem.

“We have some of the worst rates for children living in poverty in the country and that means too many of our young people are being condemned to a life where they cannot reach their potential.

“We must end it once and for all.”

The motion is also supported by councillors Paul Thompson, David Riddle, Steve Gibbon and Kelly Atkinson.

Coun Brash said: “This is not a party-political issue and I hope we can see some grown up politics at the meeting. If this is passed then every decision, every debate, every meeting will become about our focus on child poverty and that can only be a good thing.”

At a meeting of the council’s Finance and Policy Committee yesterday, councillors spoke of the importance of tackling food poverty in families especially during the school holidays. A pilot scheme is due to take place in the summer.

It is part of an updated Child and Family Poverty Strategy for Hartlepool being developed by the council.