Thousands of Hartlepool children are living in poverty and in homes where no one works, according to a new report.
Councillors are due to meet tomorrow to discuss efforts to lift families out of poverty by working with partner organisations.
A new Hartlepool Child and Family Poverty Strategy being prepared says the overall level of child poverty in town is currently 31%, which equates to about 7,000 young people aged 0-19.
The proportion of children living in homes where nobody works is reported to be 23%, equivalent to about 5,200 youngsters.
And the draft strategy says Hartlepool families have lost out on £42 million as a result of the government’s welfare reforms.
Organisations in town say the figures reflect what they see on a daily basis.
The council strategy says: “Poverty is a cost that Hartlepool cannot afford. Research tells us that growing up in poverty has a devastating effect on our children and young people, and that in many cases poor children grow up to be poor adults.
“In real terms new legislation has seen families in Hartlepool £42million worse off through reforms such as the benefit cap, changes to disability related benefits, council tax benefit, housing allowances and the under occupation charge.”
The new strategy will seek to minimise the effects of poverty on children and families and create opportunities for adults to take them off the breadline and reduce the impact on their families.
The strategy, which will go to full council for approval in October, added: “Child Poverty is everybody’s business and Hartlepool Borough Council and partners are wholly committed to achieving an end to poverty by 2020.
“This is a significant undertaking and the only way this will happen will be through a partnership approach. All services need to work together.
“Resources are tight, however there is an understanding and an appetite from all partners to make a difference to children’s lives.
“The need to work together has been agreed by all the key service providers and agencies and partners are linked in to collaborative projects with families at their heart.”
Government data says that between 2006 and 2012 poverty rates in Hartlepool increased from 27.9% to 28.1% compared to 20.8% and 18.6% nationally.
About 25% of children in Hartlepool live in a workless family compared to 18% in the North East and 14% nationally.
Challenge facing support groups
Two Hartlepool organisations that work with families told how they see the effects of poverty firsthand.
Jan Dobson, manager of Patch Family Support, which supports families across Hartlepool, said: “Many of our families are experiencing additional challenges due to government cut backs.
“We are able to refer families to the food bank and families are able to call in to our office if we have clothing, toiletries etc which have been donated. The local M&S store, do support us with supplying fresh food such as fruit and veg, which we are able to give out to families.
“Some of our families have reported that they are experiencing extra emotional strain, which affects relationships – which in turn affects family life. Families have commented on the difficulties they face due to benefit cuts also.”
Jan said the organisation, which helps about 1,000 people a year but is facing an uncertain future due to funding difficulties, would be more than happy to talk to the council about working in partnership.
Joe Michna, manager of Citizens Advice Hartlepool, said the shocking statistics mirror what it is seeing on a daily basis.
He said: “They don’t necessarily come as a great surprise. People who are either wholly or partly dependent on welfare benefits have been particularly affected. When we look at the number of people who come through our doors struggling to meet day -to-day living costs, our experience, dealing with families in particular, we can see that the welfare reforms have had an impact.”
The advice service helps people identify what benefits and other financial support they are entitled to and also supports claimants to challenge benefit cuts and sanctions.