Almost half of children in Eaton Manor and Woughton are living in poverty

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A FATHER has described how he often goes without food so his two-year-old daughter doesn’t go hungry.

The Citizen spoke to the dad, who wanted to remain anonymous, in the week that new figures showed one in five children in the city are living in poverty.

The report highlighted the worst affected areas of Milton Keynes namely Eaton Manor ward – where 42 per cent of children suffer deprivation.

These disappointing figures are on a par with some of the most deprived areas across the Britain, including Belfast West, Glasgow North East, Ladywood in Birmingham, Liverpool Riverside and Middlesbrough.

The 23-year-old dad who lives in Tinkers Bridge, said: “My daughter is my main priority. I have always wanted to be a dad and I am a good dad. I won’t eat for a couple of days or I’ll just eat a tin of beans, but she can’t do that.

“You make sure your kids are fed and looked after. Some take the easy way out and go out and steal, I can’t do that.

“I got so desperate I was ready to call collection services to take away my sofa and things like that, just so I had money to feed her.”

He lives on an estate in Woughton, which has the second worst figures with 41 per cent, just above wards including Campbell Park at 35 per cent and both Wolverton and Bradwell on 30 per cent.

But city charities are working hard to address the problems, dealing with more and more families desperate to improve the lives of their children.

Yvonne Lingard, centre administrator at the Crosslinks Centre on the Lakes Estate, said: “We know 10 to 20 families who visit us every week. The figures don’t surprise me. There are so many people out there just trying to survive, through no fault of their own.

“We try to signpost people to get them the help they need. Some people really want to find work but they are single parents, they’re stuck at home.”

John Marshall, project manager at the Food Bank, added: “We have seen an increase in families using the service in the last year. In 2011 we gave out 856 parcels and last year we gave out 906.

“A lot of the time we have seen one adult caring for the children where families have broken up. But we don’t do the work of the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or groups like that, we just need to know they’re legitimate and help them when they’re in need.

“The response from the public has been brilliant, everyone has done their bit to help the Food Bank and it is really appreciated.”

Labour parliamentary spokesman, Andrew Pakes, said: “This is a terrible snapshot of the difficulties many families are facing against a backdrop of stagnating wages and rising living costs. These levels of child poverty say a lot about the city as a whole, not just those families affected. Milton Keynes foodbank saw demand for help go up by 70% last year.

“We cannot ignore the impact that low wages and child poverty has on families. The Government and council must also look at its approach to reducing poverty and consider what it is doing to help the thousands of families struggling to get by.”

A Milton Keynes Council spokesman, said: “Reducing child poverty is a priority for Milton Keynes Council and partners.

The Milton Keynes Children and Families Partnership carried out an innovative child poverty commission in 2011/12. This was in response to issues identified by the local child poverty needs assessment that was carried out by the council and our partners. This issue is taken seriously by the Children and Families Partnership, which reviews the progress of a child poverty action plan with partners to ensure that children and families in Milton Keynes are supported achieve the best possible outcomes.”