‘We must all focus on child poverty’

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A THINK-TANK formed to tackle child poverty has published a raft of recommendations.

A new report drawn up by the Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission suggests a series of measures aimed at ‘reducing poverty now, with a strong focus on employment’ and making sure ‘today’s poor children do not become tomorrow’s poor parents’.

The commission was formed by Milton Keynes Council and the Children and Families Partnership last year following the publication of statistics that revealed how 11,255 youngsters in Milton Keynes – one child in every five – are officially living in poverty.

The statistics also showed a disparity between rich and poor areas of Milton Keynes, with 40 per cent of all poor children living in just four wards: Eaton Manor, Woughton, Campbell Park and Wolverton.

The report has led one parish councillor, Campbell Park’s Martin Petchey, to insist all councillors and every council business plan should work towards ending the ‘scandal’ of child poverty.

The commission, which includes the council, Milton Keynes College, Community Action MK, Job Centre Plus, MK Community Foundation, the business sector and parish councils, was formed to look at how support such as debt, benefits and careers advice can be best targeted.

It is chaired by child care expert, Naomi Eisenstadt, a former director of the Government’s Sure Start Unit. Proposals include introducing skills training, allowing more flexible employment and affordable childcare, improving advice on benefits and introducing a ‘living wage’ across the city.

Ms Eisenstadt, who delivered a talk on the report at Brooklands Farm Primary School on Tuesday night, said: “The main issue is that while people who have jobs are still poor it is almost possible to live. Without a job it is incredibly hard.

“If your real concern is child poverty then this is a key issue.

“There is also a scarring effect on children who grow up in poverty. The child is less likely to do well.”

Mr Petchey said although it was no surprise areas in Campbell Parish ward, which includes Fishermead and Oldbrook, were poor the extent of the figures and the levels of disparity were of concern.

He said: “The more equal a society, the more successful it is.

“Seeing this huge contrast is extremely worrying. What it boils down to is if you have not got a job and you are in poverty, then your children are.

“The best way to tackle it is to make sure the family is in work. The issue is what are the barriers to work. There are a lot to get rid off.”

He added: “It is a scandal, something that every business plan, every policy action should take into account.”

> Click here to see the Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission’s full executive summary.