Child poverty on the rise in West Midlands as more youngsters going hungry

More families are slipping into food poverty in the West Midlands, relying on handouts to survive.

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

New figures reveal how the pandemic has had a bigger impact here than in almost any other region in the country.

It is estimated around 90,000 children were living in food poverty before coronavirus struck.

That figure is expected to have risen considerably as families struggle economically through losing work or being furloughed.

Official statistics reveal that numbers of children on free school meals in the West Midlands have risen from less than 20 per cent to 23 per cent.

Only the North East has a higher figure at 26 per cent – and both contrast sharply with areas like the South East where only 15 per cent of children are helped with meals.

Wolverhampton has been identified by official figures as a particular area of concern.

The proportion of children on free school meals living in the city has risen from 27 per cent to 32 per cent since the start of the pandemic.

All this comes as figures on children deemed to be living in poverty were released, dating back to before the arrival of Covid. They show that Sandwell has the highest rate at 34 per cent, with similar figures in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Dudley. In Staffordshire, Cannock came out worst at 21 per cent.

Austerity

Councillor Ian Brookfield, leader of Wolverhampton Council, said child poverty was a “major priority”.

He said: “We will stand by our promise that nobody in our city should go hungry or not have a roof over their head.

“Poverty in general, and childhood poverty, has increased over the last 10 years. That goes along with austerity.

“Issues like those can become endemic. I would support any calls to the Government saying we need a long term solution not just to childhood poverty, but all poverty. Our children and our pensioners should not be going without.”

Councillor Gordon Alcott, deputy leader of Cannock Council, said: “I am disappointed that we have come to a situation like this where we have one of the highest figures in Staffordshire.

“We made representations at the start of the pandemic to get free school meals for the youngsters.

“We have been trying as hard as we can to bring these figures down.”

Black Country Food Bank CEO Jen Coleman said: “We did around 400,000 meals last year and a quarter of them were children. What’s really interesting is seeing how when the schools stopped, it really affected children as they lost a lot of their support. We’ve partnered with another organisation to help provide meals for children. That’ll see us providing 500 families and 900 children with food and toiletries. We also work with schools.”

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