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Child poverty in Devon and Cornwall 'as high as 40 per cent' in worst hotspots

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 20, 2013

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Child poverty in pockets of deprivation across the Westcountry is as high as 40% and rising, experts claimed in response to a new report charting the extent of the problem.

Figures show that children defined as living in poverty account for around one in four in some areas, a figure

characterised as seven youngsters in a typical school’s classroom.

The study comes amid Government plans to change the way the measure is worked out by moving away from a purely income-derived figure.

The authors – a coalition of charities under the banner the Campaign to End Child Poverty – calculated the measure as those in families earning less than 60% of the median income of £26,000 before housing costs or claiming out-of-work benefits.

It found the highest number was 25% in Plymouth’s Moor View and Sutton and Devonport constituencies.

Next worse off was Torbay, where some 22% were identified, followed by Camborne and Redruth in Cornwall, where the total was 20%, then Totnes, St Austell and Newquay, with 18%.

Torbay Liberal Democrat MP Adrian Sanders said the region’s four key industries – tourism, agriculture, fishing and defence – had all suffered, contributing to the problem.

He said there were structural problems holding back Torbay but added that simply counting those below a percentage of income alone was “meaningless”. “There is no easy solution,” he said.

“But what we call child poverty today is not the same as a century ago when children did not get a balanced diet, lived in poor accommodation and had nil chance of breaking free.

“We have been trying to invest in people early on to give them more opportunity through our Pupil Premium, which is directed at people from the poorest backgrounds.”

The research charted a UK-wide map which identified

69 wards were more than half of children were in child poverty.

Typical across Devon and Cornwall was 10% to 20%.

Nicky Williams, Plymouth City Council’s executive member for children’s services, said a “huge analysis” of the problem had been undertaken across the city after it had been identified as a major issue.

“In some hotspots in the city like Stonehouse it is as high as 40% – we need to target our resources and are about to publish a strategy,” she added.

Labour MP for Plymouth’s Moor View constituency Alison Seabeck said the numbers were shocking and accused the Coalition of “fudging the issue”.

“The Government is embarrassed by these rising figures which are a direct response to their welfare measures,” she said.

“By moving away from an income calculation they are trying to perform a smoke and mirrors act.”

Below poverty line figures by electoral district

The Campaign to End Child Poverty uses a “headline” calculation which does not factor in housing costs.

The group calculates that at the end of 2010/11, 3.6 million children were living below the poverty line, once rent or mortgage payments are subtracted from incomes.

But it also warns that the following locally-produced figures would be significantly higher if measured after housing costs – especially in areas where housing is particularly expensive.

Child poverty figures for Devon and Cornwall have been broken down by Parliamentary constituency. In Cornwall: Camborne and Redruth, 20%; St Austell and Newquay, 18%; St Ives, 17%; North Cornwall, 16%; Truro and Falmouth, 15%; South East Cornwall, 15%.

In Devon: Plymouth, Moor View, 25%; Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, 25%; Torbay, 22%; Totnes, 18%; Torridge and West Devon, 14%; Tiverton and Honiton, 12%; Newton Abbot, 15%; Central Devon, 11%; East Devon, 10%; Exeter, 17%; North Devon, 14%; South West Devon, 8%.

The Isles of Scilly as a local council area returned a figure below 5%.

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  • Stork  |  February 20 2013, 12:59PM

    So, what's the answer ? Everybody live on Benefits ? Is that what its come to ? Who pays for the Benefits, the Taxpayer, of course.

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  • 2TheBeehive  |  February 20 2013, 10:08AM

    However, as £26,000 is taken as the average income and this is surely, in no way representative of wages in the South West, these figures could well be misconstrued.

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  • 2TheBeehive  |  February 20 2013, 10:04AM

    A child in poverty is defined as a child living in a household where the income is below 60 per cent of the average household income, which stands at £359 a week after tax and housing costs have been removed.The figure is adjusted for the number of children in the household. £359 per week! AFTER tax and AFTER housing costs have been taken out!? POVERTY!!!! I am beginning to lose my rag with this country. If these people think that £359 is poverty then God help them if they really do have to suffer in REAL poverty.

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