Cuts have consequences

In which Michael Lynch investigates the impact of child poverty on our local communities..

Medway is a brilliant place to be educated, live, and work. Medway is one of the many areas that has suffered the devastating welfare reforms brought in from central government. 30% of Medway children are living in poverty, higher than the national average, which is appalling. The increase in child poverty in Medway and the nation has a direct link to the welfare reforms and cuts that Medway and many other areas have suffered. Thousands of children across Kent are living in poverty. 

The government must respond with a credible and urgent response to child poverty in Medway and the wider region. Medway is one of the worst-hit regions in Kent. In Medway the worst ward for child poverty is Gillingham North, where 2916 children are affected by poverty, a shocking statistic. The statistic below posted by KentLive shows that 30% of all children in Medway are affected by poverty, the 4th highest in Kent. 

Medway Council must act to solve this crisis that Medway faces. Six out of the ten highest child poverty wards in Kent are in Medway. With the local council failing to act and deal with child poverty in Medway, my local area has seen a continuous and horrendous rise in child poverty. 

The UK’s leading child poverty coalition is calling for the government to outline ambitious child poverty-reduction strategies as new data shows that child poverty is becoming the new normal in many parts in Britain, which is shameful. The data, published by the End Child Poverty coalition, highlights how worrying levels vary across Kent and the nation. 

The government need to restore the link between benefits (including housing support) and inflation, and then making up for the loss in the real value in children’s benefits as a result of the four year freeze and previous sub-inflation increases in benefit rates. The government needs to end the two-child limit on child allowances in tax credits and universal credit. The government need to reform the Universal Credit system which has plunged millions of families and children into poverty in the UK. The government need to reverse the cuts and investing in children’s services such as mental health, education, childcare, and social care. 

There are around four million children growing up in poverty, which isn’t good enough. The poverty rates have risen year after year for every type of working family – lone-parent or couple families, families with full and part-time employment. The figures are stark! 

In 2017, four in ten children were in temporary accommodation, around 50,000 children. 

The temporary accommodation that thousands of children find themselves in is regularly substandard. Frequently the accommodation is a B&B where often the bathrooms are shared and there is nowhere to cook. Places where vulnerable families can be living in the same corridor. Office block conversions into individual flats that many families live and sleep, the size of a parking space. Even converted shipping containers – cramped and airless, hot in the summer, freezing in the winter. It always seems to be disabled and vulnerable people that of lower priority. Families are disgustingly living in theses horrendous conditions for years. Our housing system needs to be urgently reformed. Child poverty should be a moral endeavour for every government regardless of its political persuasion. I’m afraid to say our government is failing us on this. 

A million children – around four in every school class – need help with mental health problems. Over 50,000 children aren’t getting any kind of education, while nearly 30,000 are in violent gangs. Many more children are growing up at risk, due to family circumstances. These are young carers; kids living in households where the adults are involved in substance drug abuse, mentally ill, or violent. These children bear the brunt of the cuts in public spending and services rationing.

I’ve heard more from politicians about: HS2, tax cuts, and of course Brexit, more than about the vital issue of child poverty. Child poverty has been overlooked too long by politicians and the government – enough is enough! We need to see change to Universal Credit; we need more affordable housing, and vulnerable families are not having to live in shipping containers and converted office blocks. 

I am calling on Medway Council and central government to prioritise child poverty and tackle it head-on. The welfare reforms and cuts introduced by the government have had a detrimental impact on the most vulnerable children and families in Medway. The government need to take urgent action and prioritise such an important issue in my local community. Child poverty has been brushed under the carpet for too long now, something needs to change! Medway is one of the many towns that have a heavy percentage of child poverty, this has to stop! The failure of central government and councils have led to millions of children and families plunged into poverty, and the government and council need to take responsibility and rectify this urgent situation that Medway and the nation face. 

Michael Lynch is a young Labour activist. He has lived in Medway all my life, and believes it’s a great place to live, work. and for education. He is a member of the Medway Youth Council, and is running to be the communities lead in their upcoming elections.