Postcodes in Merseyside hardest hit by child poverty

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More than two in three children are living in poverty in parts of Merseyside according to new figures.

The government statistics revealed that there were 68,718 children in Merseyside living below the breadline in March 2019, even before the cost of housing was taken into account.

The number has been rising year on year and is up from 54,543 in 2015.

The current figures do not take into account any likely rise that has happened as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

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The long term increase has been driven in particular by a sharp rise in the number of children living in poverty despite one or more of their parents working.

Some 39,152 of the children living below the poverty line in March 2019 were in working families – 57% of the total, and up from 26,904 in 2015.

The overall rise means that around one in every five children in Merseyside is now living in poverty (21%) – although that figure is higher in some areas than others.

Liverpool is the borough with the highest proportion of children living in poverty, with 28% of its children living below the breadline.

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The proportion stands at 18% in Wirral and Sefton, 20% in St Helens and 23% in Knowsley.

Analysis of hyperlocal data, areas with a population of around 1,500 people each – also shows that the situation is even more stark in particular neighbourhoods.

In one area the proportion of children living in poverty rose to 69%.

A Liverpool Council spokesman said the effects of austerity on the city had hit poor communities in the city particularly hard.

The spokesman said: "Liverpool has felt the pressures of government-imposed austerity more than most.

"The council has faced a decade of sustained cuts to its budgets, which has left us with £436 million less to spend each year.

Liverpool Council spends millions helping struggling families every year.

"Yet the level of support the city council and its partners continue to provide for those in most need in our community continues to be amongst the highest of any local authority in the country."

The city council has set aside £18m from its budgets since 2015 to support people struggling to pay their bills or having difficulty due to changes to their benefits.

Last year the council’s Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme (LCCS) spent almost £3.4 million on providing crisis payments to those facing extreme financial hardship.

The council paid out a further £3m in Discretionary Housing Payments to support those who had been impacted by the introduction of Universal Credit.

The council also suport 65,000 households last year through its Council Tax Support programme.

Charities have also warned that child poverty is only going to get worse because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Judith Cavanagh, coordinator of the End Child Poverty coalition, said: “These figures from Government show the extent to which we have been failing children in poverty even before the outbreak of coronavirus.

“We have not all entered this crisis equally. Children in poverty will be among the worst affected by the crisis as households see their income hit further, through loss of employment and the increased costs of staying home – such as food, fuel bills and supporting home schooling.

“Policies such as the two-child limit on children’s benefits and the benefit cap have made a significant contribution to the rise in child poverty over the past five years.

“As more families now have to turn to the benefits system as a result of coronavirus we are urging the Government to scrap those policies, which they argued acted as incentives to get people into work.

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“We would also like the Government to introduce an immediate increase to child benefit of £10 per child as a fast and effective means of getting support to low income families.

“Children in low income families have been failed over the past 5 years. Our response to Covid-19 must not fail them again.”

A DWP spokesperson said it was doing "whatever it takes" to support families.

They said: “Widespread support is available to families, including increased Universal Credit payments, contributory benefits, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self-employment Income Support Scheme, Statutory Sick Pay, mortgage holidays and greater protection for renters.

“Despite the challenges of the current pandemic we remain committed to providing opportunities and tackling the root causes of poverty.”

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