‘Shocking’ Worthing child poverty figures revealed

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AT least one in three children in parts of Worthing are living in poverty, a study has shown.

According to the West Sussex Annual Public Health Report 2011, Worthing’s Northbrook and Broadwater wards are among the worst areas in West Sussex for levels of child poverty.

The latest published figures, which show statistics recorded in 2009, state that 39.9 per cent of Northbrook children and 39.7 per cent of Broadwater children live in a low-income environment.

But according to children’s charity Save the Children, there has not been any improvement in the figures over the past two years – in fact, UK poverty levels are set to rise by 400,000 children by 2015.

Sally Copley, Save the Children’s head of poverty, said: “Many of these children will be going to bed hungry, growing up in a cold home and falling behind in their education. These figures are driven by the fact that any progress in tackling poverty made by the government’s new universal credit reforms is wiped out by the impact of other benefit cuts. The government must urgently change course and invest more in supporting the poorest families.”

On a local level, poverty is defined by families who earn less than 60 per cent of the area’s median income, or a “relative low income”. On average in the UK, this equates to £297 a week for a single parent with two children, before housing costs are taken into account. For a couple with two children, a relative low income would mean £379 a week.

Evidence suggests persistent poverty during childhood can have adverse effects for life, including poorer job prospects and even a shorter life expectancy.

County councillor for Northbrook, Robin Rogers said: “To think that almost four in 10 children are living in poverty is beyond belief. We need to take action against this shocking statistic. Big developments like the recently-approved Durrington Consortium will not tackle child poverty. What I’d love to see is more work done in the community. The West Durrington Phoenix Youth Group do great work, but we need more. Breakfast clubs at schools are a fantastic idea – it gives children the nutrition they need, and it’s a great start to their learning day.”

West Durrington’s Phoenix Youth Group organises low-cost day trips and residential trips for the 100 children who attend their weekly sessions, for as little as £1.50 membership a week.

Secretary for the group, Laura Scott said: “I’ve just come off a four-day trip to PGL activity centre with the kids, they paid £40 each for everything. We heavily subsidise everything we do, we rely a lot on grants and fund-raising.”

Laura added: “We have a lot of children whose parents are on benefits, and the number is growing. Our aim is to provide a safe environment for kids to meet their friends.”