Plan to tackle Hartlepool’s high poverty levels wins backing

Hartlepool Civic Centre
Hartlepool Civic Centre

Councillors gave their backing for a new plan to tackle poverty in Hartlepool.

Hartlepool Borough Council is spearheading a Child and Family Poverty Strategy setting out measures designed to drive down the town’s high rates of deprivation between now and 2020 by working with partner agencies.

On the whole those that are in poverty are really trying very hard for their families

Danielle Swainston, Hartlepool Borough Council

The plan was supported by the council’s Children’s Services Committee.

Committee chairman, Councillor Alan Clark said: “I think this is important. As we sit here now there is families out there in Hartlepool and across the UK who are struggling to make ends meet.”

The strategy aims to help lift families out of deprivation by focussing on offering support as early as possible and prevent children becoming through improved education and better opportunities for all.

The authority says it will only be achieved by working in collaboration with partners and other services.

The strategy also outlines the need to help people access benefits they are entitled to, help them manage their money and support families in rent arrears.

Coun Paul Beck said it was not just households where nobody works that suffer poverty but those with jobs to.

Danielle Swainston, assistant director (children’s services) agreed saying: “On the whole those that are in poverty are really trying very hard for their families.

“A number of them have two or three jobs but very low skilled and paid.

“It is an issue we need to address collectively as a strategy.”

Coun Clark said he knew of a family in his ward that worked and was left with just £6 at the end of the week after paying the bills.

Coun Brenda Harrison said more public understanding was needed of how foodbanks operate to get across users are not “scroungers”.

She added: “For us to need foodbanks in this day and age is a disgrace.”

Hartlepool’s overall level of child poverty is currently 31%, which equates to about 7,000 young people aged 0-19.

Coun Ged Hall, vice chair of the committee, said: “That is a staggering figure for a town of 90,000 people.”

The strategy also places greater attention to children going hungry during school holidays.

Around 2,400 youngsters across the town get free school meals.

A £13,000 council pilot scheme is underway in partnership with Hartlepool Foodbank to reach more families during the summer holidays by providing food parcels from three new venues across town.

And community groups can apply for a share of £25,000 in grants to provide meals during the six-week break.

The Child and Family Poverty Strategy will go to the council’s Finance and Policy Committee in September and full council will be asked to ratify it in October.