Jul 28

Tackle the root causes of poverty to give every child the best start

Holiday hunger logoMore than 17,000 children across Liverpool receive free school meals. There are real concerns that now the school holidays are here, some children who get lunch through term time could be going hungry.

Nationally, the Tory government admits that it has not made an assessment of the children’s school holiday needs, let alone made any plans to make sure there is provision available locally. However, over a million school-age children have free school meals, which won’t be available during the summer holidays.

Real wages have been falling since 2010 as inflation rises, which will leave more children at risk of going hungry. Child poverty is at a seven year high, leaving working families worse off.

Increasing numbers of children are growing up in poverty and their families may not have the money they need to make sure the children receive all the nourishment they need over the summer holidays.

Figures from the Children’s Society show that in Liverpool Wavertree, around 3,300 children are living in families experiencing problem debts.

It is unacceptable that the government has not made the effort to assess the need and instead has left it up to local communities and charities to step in.

The Tory government has so far refused to measure the scale of the problem facing children across the country, let alone come up with the strategy and action needed to put matters right.

In fact, the Children’s Commissioner recently tried to pull together official figures on the life experiences of vulnerable children, but found government understanding to be sadly severely lacking.

The figures that do exist show hundreds of thousands of children and young people living vulnerable lives, but as the commissioner points out, even these shocking figures are likely to be just the ‘tip of the iceberg.’ The figures uncovered include:

  • 800,000 children aged 5 to 17 experience mental health problems
  • Almost 700,000 children are living in families that have vulnerabilities, including over 15,000 children living with an adult receiving alcohol treatment and nearly 12,000 living with an adult in drug treatment
  • 580,000 children are so vulnerable that the state has to step in and provide direct care, intervention or support
  • 160,000 children are temporarily or permanently excluded from school
  • 119,000 children are homeless or living in insecure or unstable housing
  • 170,000 children are estimated to provide unpaid caring for a family member.

In government, Labour will measure the problem and tackle the root causes of vulnerability, such as housing, crime, and poverty. For instance, Labour will introduce a Real Living Wage of £10 an hour to ensure that every family is able to make ends meet.

Labour will also put the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law and ensure every child gets the best possible start in life.