May 21 2013 Latest news:
Ramzy Alwakeel, Reporter
Monday, January 28, 2013
Havering is the only London borough where the gulf between rich and poor families is widening.
To be classed as living in child poverty, youngsters must live in a family that:
(1) Claims out-of-work benefits or child tax credit, and
(2) Has a taxable household income below 60 per cent of the median national income.
The stat came to light in a Greater London Authority (GLA) report on levels of child poverty in the capital.
It contains data on the number of children living in families classed as “in poverty” in each of 4,765 sub-districts of London.
But comparing 2006 figures with 2010 figures shows the gulf between Havering’s richest and poorest areas has widened.
In every other London borough the gap has shrunk.
In 2010, nearly half of all children in Harold Hill’s Briar Road area were living in poverty, compared with 1.1 per cent in an area of Emerson Park – a gap of 47.4 per cent. In 2006, the gulf was 45.1 per cent.
Havering as a whole has also seen the biggest increase in child poverty in London, with 2010 figures 1.5 per cent up on those from 2006.
Only one other local authority in London – Bexley – has seen an increase, with the other 31 reporting lower levels or no change.
Even in Tower Hamlets, where child poverty is nearly 50 per cent, the gulf has shrunk by 18 per cent.
Malcolm Drakes, head at Broadford School in Faringdon Avenue, Harold Hill, said the child poverty figure for the area didn’t come as a surprise.
“We see acute levels of need on a daily basis,” he said. “More than 50 per cent of our children qualify for free school meals and we regularly have to supplement the cost of uniform and provide breakfast for children.
“We run a football team and we provide boots, socks, shorts, tops and wet weather jackets – the whole thing. Otherwise, large numbers of children wouldn’t be able to take part.
“The poorer children are, the more reliant they are on food in school. Our ‘breakfast club’ has a daily take-up of 30 to 40 children from about 20 families. We spend £100 to £150 a week on breakfast for children who can’t afford the toast, cereal and hot chocolate we have on offer.”
Local councillor Keith Darvill (Labour, Heaton) called the figures “important”.
“The Briar Road estate always has been an area of deprivation,” he said. “There’s a high proportion of self-employed tradesmen living in that area, and they’ve been hit significantly by the recession.”
Harold Hill food bank manager Mark Reeves said times were getting “harder and harder” for families.
“I hear people commenting that they’ve got to go without food themselves, or without heating, so they can feed their kids,” he said.
Deputy council leader Cllr Steven Kelly (Conservative, Emerson Park) said he hoped the council’s recent investments in Harold Hill would reverse the trend – but added he believed there was a culture of joblessness in the area.
“We’ve had problems with the Briar Road area almost since it was built,” he said, “but we’re doing a huge amount of work down there.
“We’re improving people’s houses so their living standard is higher.
“We’re working with families to cut down truanting, and the Myplace centre now has an area to get employment advice.
“We’ve got to get the people on the Hill to go to work, which means improving the transport. As properties are built we will put bus services in to link them to the station.
“It’s about changing attitudes. There are houses with two or three generations in them where no one works, but the government is now making it a lot harder to live without a job.”
But Mr Reeves said that was “not the whole picture”.
“Of course you’ll always get people with that attitude,” he said, “but we do serve working families where there’s just a very low income – people are working but there isn’t enough to go around.
“It only takes one crisis like an unexpected bill or a central heating breakdown and there’s not enough in the budget.”