Falkirk’s poverty-stricken children

One in five children in district are being raised in poor households
One in five children in district are being raised in poor households
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Almost two thirds of children in the Falkirk district living in poverty come from families where at least one parent is working.

The shocking statistic comes from the End Child Poverty campaign. Its research shows that 2855 children in the local authority area are in families with one or two working adults but qualifying as ‘poor households’, A further 1447 children are living in the same conditions, with their parents out of work.

Children are classed as being in poverty if their family income is under 60 per cent of median earnings.

A two-parent family with two children between five and 14 is considered to be in poverty if they live off less than £364 a week after housing costs have been deducted. The figure is £269 for a single parent with two children – around £13 a day for each person.

Housing costs are a major cause of hardship for hard-working families and politicians and campaigners like the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland (CPAG) blame the UK government’s austerity measures and cuts to tax credits and child benefit for increasing levels of worry over money.

Housing costs only include rent or mortgage payments and interest, water rates, structural insurance, and ground rent and service charges. But additional bills for council tax, energy, food, transport, school trips and leisure activities can leave families almost penniless. A report for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in April warned that increases in the numbers of low income families being forced into higher-priced private accommodation was putting more people at risk.

Analysis found social housing availability had fallen 17 per cent over the 20 years up to 2011, but the proportion of households in the private rented sector doubled to 14 per cent over the same period.

Report co-author Tom MacInnes said: “Affordable housing, often social housing, has been key to progress in tackling poverty in Scotland. As the stock declines, low income families increasingly find themselves in more expensive, private rented accommodation.”

The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, which also published a report this week, claimed the government’s target to reduce child poverty by half by 2020 will not be met.

Child Poverty Action Group director in Scotland John Dickie is calling on the UK Government to “rethink” cuts to family benefits and tax credits and to keep housing costs down.

He said: “The rising child poverty that this report highlights is no surprise, but that makes it no less shocking. Generally there has been a significant increase in households renting privately which creates pressure on housing.

“There is real concern that more people on low incomes will continue to be pushed into poverty. It is largely a result of real term cuts to tax credits and benefits.

“In Scotland alone these are set to take up to 100,000 more children into poverty by 2020. Behind the dry statistics are tens of thousands of children whose health will be damaged, education undermined and life chances cut short because their parents don’t have the resources they need.”

Grangemouth, formerly called the ‘Boom Town’ due to its prosperity, has the highest rate of children in poverty in the Falkirk area with over one in four – 25.9 per cent after housing costs.

The town is followed closely by Falkirk North (24.8 per cent) and Falkirk South (24.24 per cent). The Bo’ness and Blackness area is another part of the district which rises to the one in five rate with 21.25 per cent living under the poverty line, as is Lower Braes (20.13 per cent). Bonnybridge and Larbert have the lowest levels on 15.43 per cent.

The UK Government has called the figures into question.

A government spokesman said: “The figures do not provide an accurate picture of child poverty. We’re doing more than ever to help children, the attainment gap for deprived pupils has fallen and we’ve just seen the largest fall in unemployment since 1988.

“We remain committed to our goal of ending child poverty by 2020. We’ve already made great strides under this government with 300,000 fewer children in relative poverty and 290,000 fewer children growing up in workless families.”

A Scottish government spokesman said: “It is totally unacceptable that there are children living in poverty in a country as wealthy as Scotland.

“We know that the UK Government’s benefit reforms are unfairly impacting on some of the most vulnerable members of our society and that is why we are investing £81m in the next financial year to help mitigate the effects of these changes.

“In the Scottish Government’s submission to the Smith Commission, we set out the need for Scotland to have full responsibility over welfare and employment powers. Only full powers over welfare, employment and social policy will help us to tackle child poverty and allow Scotland to become a fairer country.”