Child poverty is rising in Milton Keynes confirms report that is set to stun councillors

Anti-poverty experts will next week cross the t’s and dot the i’s on a hard-hitting report to council leaders.
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The Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission has been meeting people across the city to find ways to improve the lives of thousands of families who haven’t got enough money to live on.

Now, a meeting of the council’s children and young people scrutiny committee yesterday (Wednesday) heard that the report is nearing completion – and it is set to be a shock.

“The feedback has stopped us in our tracks,” said Jeremy Beake, the council’s corporate equality and diversity officer. “People are facing impossible choices, which are becoming even more impossible.”

Wednesday's meeting of the scrutiny committeeWednesday's meeting of the scrutiny committee
Wednesday's meeting of the scrutiny committee

Mr Beake told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that:

> Child poverty is high and is has been rising in absolute terms since 2013.

> Nine in every 30 children in Milton Keynes are living in poverty, ranging from one in 10 to half in the least affluent wards, making them among the most deprived in the country.

> The majority of children in poverty are now in households where one or more adults work.

Children, some 1,400 of whom spent last Christmas in temporary accommodation, are being bullied at school, missing meals and going without coats.

The commission has been led by child care barrister Hannah Markham QC and her first report is due to be presented to MK Council’s cabinet in March. A meeting is taking place next week to finalise it.

The commissioners were staying silent on what the report will suggest but councillors gave an indication of their thinking.

Cllr David Hopkins (Cons, Danesborough & Walton) poverty used to be considered to be the unemployed and single mums who could be given a “hand up, rather than a hand-out”, he said.

But with unemployment in the city around 4 per cent, it has become one where families are in work but don’t have enough wages.

“The extent of child poverty in Milton Keynes is staggering,” he said. “We are in the fifth richest country in the world, and in one of the most prosperous parts of the UK, yet we still have these levels of shameful poverty.”

Cllr Elaine Wales (Lab, Bletchley Park) said she knew of people who worked in local supermarkets who “can’t afford to buy food from that shop”.

And Cllr Amanda Marlow (Cons, Loughton & Shenley), who is a mum of a disabled child, spoke up for parents in a similar position.

“It is more expensive if you have to run a washing machine several times a day because the child has soiled themselves,” she said. “Or if you need wooden flooring for wheelchairs.”

Sarah Gonsalves, the council’s director of policy, insight and communications, cautioned against thinking that the council could change everything.

She also said that there are “things that are working” across the city and “it is not that nothing is working.”

Cllr Jane Carr (Lib Dem, Newport Pagnell South), said: “Accommodation is the big headline for me and the fact that poverty isn’t about single women bringing up 10 kids on benefits.”