THOUSANDS of children in Milton Keynes are going hungry every day because their parents are living well below the poverty line.
Shocking new statistics have revealed 11,255 city youngsters – one child out of every five – are officially deprived.
The highest proportion live in Woughton and Eaton Manor wards, where almost 40 per cent of children are affected.
Other poverty hotspots are Wolverton, Bradwell, Stantonbury, Bletchley and Fenny Stratford.
But some of the more affluent areas are hiding a grim secret too. For in Olney there are 100 children living well below the breadline, together with ‘significant numbers’ in Newport Pagnell and Hanslope.
Some 7,000 of the children have lone parents . But all have the same plight – their families are living on less than 60 per cent of the average weekly income, often equivalent to just a few pounds a day.
Many cannot even afford to put meals on the table at the end of the week and are forced to visit the city’s Foodbank for special children’s’ food packs.
All are doomed to be more likely to suffer more chronic illnesses, grow into poor adults and die younger than average.
All these facts have been unveiled by the city’s Child Poverty Commission, a new grassroots investigation launched by Milton Keynes Council and the Children and Families Partnership.
Leading the study voluntarily is expert Naomi Eisenstadt, founding director of the government’s child help group Sure Start.
She has spent the past four weeks talking to parents in the most deprived areas to find out exactly why they are stuck in such a poverty trap. And already Naomi has hit out at the national trend to promote ‘good parenting’ techniques as a way to reduce child poverty.
“In the absence of any talk about paying the bills, this focus is disrespectful because it assumes these are the problems poor people have and does not recognise that the main problem poor people have is not having enough money,” she said.
“To tell the truth, I would rather put the food on the table.”
Naomi is also meeting teachers, charity workers, social workers, medics and council officials in a bid to find a way in which the city can tackle the problem.
The Children and Families Partnership, made up of representatives from education, charities, the jobcentre and parish councils, has vowed it will do all it can to help.
One of its prime aims is to find ways in which local services could work better together to ease the plight of poor families and improve their opportunities for employment.
You can follow the commission’s progress on www.milton-keynes.gov.uk/childpoverty