CALLS have today been made for urgent action to tackle child poverty in parts of Chester.
The calls come after it was revealed one in three children living in Blacon, the city’s largest estate, are living in poverty.
“Deeply concerning” statistics published this week by the children’s charity End Child Poverty show 33 per cent of children in the Blacon ward are classed as living in poverty – 13 per cent more than the national average.
According to the findings, 20.2 per cent of children nationally are living in poverty, with the figure showing Cheshire West and Chester as a whole at 16 per cent.
While the figures for Cheshire West and Chester as a whole have shown the situation not to be as severe as many other places in the UK, the findings for Blacon and the Ellesmere Port ward of Central and Westminster, which showed child poverty at 35 per cent, have provided cause for concern.
Blacon social enterprise Avenue Services has committed to tackling the problem of child poverty in the area and is set to launch a new scheme to provide low income families with money management advice.
Sharon Morris, head of integrated services for Avenue Services, said: “We are aware of the impact child poverty can have on the life chances for young people in the area and the impact welfare reform will have on families within Blacon, which will contribute further to child poverty.
“Due to concerns we have and in support of tackling child poverty, from April 1 Avenue Services will be commissioning Chester and District Housing Trust to provide financial inclusion services, money advice and employment advice to residents within Blacon.
“Avenue Services will also be involved in a loan sharks campaign against illegal money lenders operating within the area of Blacon; through the campaign we aim to raise the profile of dangers of using loan sharks, as well as promoting legal credit options and sound financial management.”
Cllr Justin Madders, leader of the Labour group said: “These figures are deeply concerning and this is a situation that has to be addressed as quickly as possible.
“Parents are being forced to choose between heating and eating for their families and I have heard reports of children going to school in wet clothes because there simply isn’t enough money for their parents to heat their homes.
“This council has to be more imaginative and resourceful in dealing with this problem. Things like free school meals, helping families to clothe their children and ensuring those who are entitled to benefits are claiming them will help go some way to addressing this problem.
“This is an issue which has stemmed from central Government policy and these figures have come at a time when unemployment in the area is rising.
“The key issue in helping to rectify this problem is getting people into work. That’s where the focus needs to be.”
Blacon Cllr Reggie Jones said: “Statistics year on year show that Blacon is an area of deprivation, and this is something that needs to be addressed.
“I think the council should be investing considerably in the Credit Union as they are in a perfect position to help families get by and avoid the use of these loan sharks.
“Blacon has always been a close knit community and I would like to see them come together to help each other out in whatever way they can.”
Council spokesperson Shirley Wingfield said: “Our staff work with disadvantaged families across the Borough, making sure that public resources are targeted in the right places.
“There are a number of specific problems for workless families that are funded through the European Social Fund that help to address this biggest cause of poverty.
“With support from the council, schools in Blacon have seen a considerable improvement in attainment in the last few years and we expect this to continue.”
The Government classes children as “in poverty” when they live in homes with an income of 60 per cent below the median average household income.
Currently this is defined as children with one parent bringing in less than £15,500 a year or two parents making less than £19,900 a year.