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Amber Burney's latest column for The Journal

 

​If we’re lucky by the time this is actually published the Government will have made another, at this point predictable, U-turn and decided they don’t want poor kids to starve this Christmas.

You would think with various Conservative MPs making themselves look like Dickensian nightmare antagonists on social media, they would have come across mountains of evidence showing child poverty is not, in fact, caused by their parents not trying hard enough, or at least invested in some PR managers.

In the case of the North East, it is quite clearly impacted by a lack of levelling-up and years of austerity. Last week the Chamber, VONNE (Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East) and the North East Child Poverty Commission wrote a letter to the Government on the urgent need for them to create a plan and address child poverty issues plaguing the region as a part of their levelling-up agenda.

Research from the End Child Poverty coalition has shown the North East having the largest rise in child poverty in the last four years – a staggering 24% to 35%. Going hungry affects your ability to even focus on your education. Children from low income families have fewer opportunities and are more likely to suffer from physical and mental health issues. Pair that with the devastating impact of Covid and you’ve got a dangerous cocktail for levelling down, not up.

And no, it isn’t that the parents of these children don’t want to work. Statistics from job-search site Indeed showed Middlesbrough and Sunderland topping the charts of the number of CV postings per job available. Low paid, insecure jobs have been hit the hardest in the pandemic, and that’s having a massive effect on our region’s children in turn.

What is needed is investment into the region to create more and better jobs, so that the people and our children in the North East are open to the opportunities seen in other parts of the country. We need protection for our most vulnerable, so this pandemic doesn’t set off a wildfire of greater unemployment when we have so much to give and have made such great strides in improvement.

I for one am ready to see the Government U-turn on constantly forgetting about the North East and the brilliant people who live here.