One child in three is living below the poverty line in parts of Kingston. As part of a new series of features DAVID LINDSELL spoke to parents about poverty and how the council intends to tackle it.
The man in charge of pulling children out of poverty in Kingston said figures that showed 5,000 living below the poverty line had been a “wake up call” to the problem.
Last week the Surrey Comet reported that in Norbiton one child in three is feeling the effects of poverty, according to Government figures due to be updated this summer.
Grahame Snelling, Kingston Council’s manager for prevention and safeguarding, said: “Five thousand was a bit of a wake-up call.
“It is a big deal and one we want to reduce.”
But he said the word poverty gave a sense of Victorian destitution, which did not sum up the situation.
Kingston Council aims to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 1,000 over the next two years by reducing housing problems, improving access to employment and skills, increasing family incomes, and raising aspirations to break the cycle of poverty.
Mr Snelling said: “That’s a big challenge because it's an ambitious and bold statement but it does mean we set ourselves some quite difficult challenges because you don't know about some of the other things that could knock you off course out there.”
Measures include reducing the number of children –currently more than 700 – in temporary accommodation, providing childcare for poverty stricken families, increasing the take-up of free meals and making sure all children have the chance to take part in activities.
Kingston Council has successfully managed to increase the take-up of free school meals to 2,218 children, a vital measure which brings in more money to be spent on tackling the roots of poverty.
But that may be only half of the children who are eligible for the meals although the number desperate for that help was likely to be much less.
Mr Snelling said: “I couldn't give you a figure today of the number of children living in such dire situations they don’t know where their next meal will come from.
“I imagine that’s a small number of children but I can’t quantify that for you.”
But one of the tools to help families by spotting problems earlier on was blunted when Government cuts led to the axing of the Positive Start project helping vulnerable families at the Burlington Road children’s centre. Kingston Council now hopes to revive the project.
* What are your experiences of child poverty? If you would like to speak to David Lindsell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8744 4244.