Bournemouth Diaries:Child Poverty

Are Parents Obstructing the Betterment of Shocking Child Poverty?

As reported by the independent children’s charity Save the Children, over 100,000 children in the South West are living in severe poverty, deprived of the basic essentials such as warm clothes and food.

According to them living in severe poverty means living on less than £12,220 a year leaving families £113 a week short of what they need for everyday essentials such as food and clothing.

The latest report “Measuring Severe Child Poverty in the UK”, commissioned from the New Policy Institute, reveals that 1.7 million children across the UK live in severe poverty. That is around 13% of all UK children.

Save the Children Director of UK programmes, Fergus Drake, said: “The Government has failed to focus its attention on the children who need help the most. Without that focus the government will continue to tread water on tackling the unacceptably high numbers of children living in families whose lives are being destroyed by poverty.”

In Bournemouth, high poverty only appears to be hidden by it being a predominantly rich area with tourism and developed industry. It is said that the latest figures published by HM Revenue and Customs show that 20.8 per cent of all children living in Bournemouth are living in poverty.

Bournemouth Council works in partnership with seven children centres and children’s information service, covering a wide range of areas.

Stokewood Children’s Centre, which covers Moordown and East Winton, is run by Barnardo’s, a British charity founded by the Irish Doctor Thomas John Barnardo in 1866. It provides a broad offer of activities aiming to advise and teach families in need how to reach progress.

However, the crucial problem is getting the families interested to participate and be helped. The Centre’s main challenge is finding and reaching the poverty stricken parents.

“We are not meeting targets for the neediest families, because you have to know where they are, and you can’t force people to come and register,” says Family Support and Outreach worker at Stokewood Children’s Centre, Janet Chaproniere.

The centre operates relying on their links with other local communities and partnerships with health and education authorities and social services. They receive referrals from these organisations, but there are children who are not meeting the thresholds for getting help. Local Social worker quoted that there are 136 children in need who are waiting to be allocated to a social worker.

Parents with mental health issues are another increasing problem amongst many causes of child poverty.

“A parent who really wants to help their child out of this situation would put their child first, but when a parent suffers from depression they’re not able to do this. They live in their own world, they cannot move away from themselves, and the child suffers for it. Depression, clinical or imaginary, is what inhibits them from doing anything positive and a lot of people sometimes haven’t got the strength to help their families, so getting them here is the first step,” said Mrs Chaproniere.

Jane Portman, Executive Director for Children and Families Services in Bournemouth, admits that fighting child poverty is not something the Council can do alone and, with the support of partners, the priority of their work is to help the local families with the necessary support.

“Our work includes providing advice on health and wellbeing, offering education and learning opportunities, assisting with childcare and giving employment advice and help. Our welfare team also helps families to access the financial help they are entitled to,” stated Jane Portman.

Stokewood Children’s Centre feels that many of their problems would be eased if the government should put more money into social housing. Damp is an immense problem for the children’s health and causes frequent instances of children with respiratory problems, asthma and reoccurring infections.

Mrs Chaproniere continues: “Even though it was the government’s initiative to change the law with Every Child Matters and by this they included the child centres’ agenda into the British everyday life, we would like to be certain that this would remain a long term commitment for them and, even if the government changes, they will carry on with children centres.”

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