Child poverty on the rise in Shropshire as more youngsters going hungry

Child poverty across Shropshire rose to the highest level in six years before the coronavirus pandemic hit, new figures have revealed.

Stock image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay
Stock image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

It comes as food banks have warned that since the outbreak even more families and households are seeking help, and the crisis is unlikely to be over for some time.

New data also shows the pandemic has led to a spike in the number of youngsters qualifying for free school meals.

More than 17,000 under 16s were living in families with low incomes in 2019-20, according to figures from the Department for Work and Pensions.

It accounted for around one in five youngsters throughout the county – 18 per cent in Shropshire and 22 per cent in Telford and Wrekin.

The figures are up from 15 per cent the year before in Shropshire and 19 per cent in Telford and Wrekin, and the largest proportion since comparable records began in 2014-15.

The majority were from working households, while around two in five were in lone-parent families.

Referrals

Families earning less than 60 per cent of the national median household income, before housing costs are considered, are defined as on 'low income' and must have claimed child benefit alongside another means of support to be included in the figures.

They were among 300,000 under-16s in poverty across the West Midlands.

The hardships felt by the pandemic has seen reliance on food banks increase.

Karen Williams, project lead at Food Bank Plus in Shrewsbury, says demand has risen year on year.

In the last eight months alone, she said it had taken 600 referrals, including from employers.

She has warned that demand is likely to increase further, adding: "I think we are going to see after furlough a lot of people losing their jobs."

Charities are also urging the Government to take action to prevent more families from falling into hardship.

Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at charity Action for Children, said: "Experts have warned that child poverty will rise even further after the pandemic, with working families facing a double threat this coming winter to their living standards as unemployment peaks and universal credit is cut.

"It’s vital the Government brings forward a credible plan to reduce poverty."

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