Child poverty rates on the rise in Stevenage and North Herts

Stock image with mum and child

Stevenage has had a 22 per cent increase in child poverty from 2015 to 2019, and an 18 per cent rise in North Herts - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Child poverty rates in Stevenage and North Herts have been steadily increasing over recent years - with Stevenage having the highest rise in the county - according to latest figures.

The House of Commons Library data shows the child poverty rate in Stevenage has gone up by 22 per cent since 2014/2015 - the largest growth in Herts, on par with Watford.

In 2014/2015, there were 2,817 child poverty cases, and 3,446 cases in 2019/2020. 

The rate in North Herts has gone up by 18 per cent since 2014/2015, although has decreased slightly between 2018 and 2020.

In 2014/2015, there were 2,867 child poverty cases - and 2019/2020 had 3,369 cases. 

Relative child poverty is defined as when a child is living in a household with an income below 60 per cent of the median in that year -  which for 2020 would be any figure lower than £18,480.

The COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns led to many losing their employment or being furloughed, while parents were also faced with homeschooling and extra mealtimes at home.

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The Trussell Trust, which supports a network of foodbanks across the UK, has reported that between April 2020 and March 2021, its foodbanks distributed 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis across the UK - 980,000 of which went to children.

In total, 244,595 of those emergency parcels were given to people in the East of England.

Compared to this time five years ago, the need for food banks in the Trussell Trust's network has increased by 128 per cent.

Rob Gregory, assistant director at Stevenage Borough Council, said: “We understand the challenges faced by local families who are experiencing hardship, particularly as we emerge from the pandemic.

"We continue to lobby the government for additional resources and a targeted effort to tackle economic inequalities. We also continue to work with Stevenage Community Trust, who provide support to families and individuals facing hardship, and we launched the Stevenage Helps appeal last April to support those in need.

“We have continued to invest in a dedicated play service for children in Stevenage, which has expanded its remit to help provide wider wellbeing support. Over the past 12 months, the service has supported over 2,500 children during the pandemic.

“Last year, we launched our Young People’s Healthy Hub to support children on a range of issues – from mental health to healthy cooking – and this is the first of its kind across Hertfordshire. You can find out more about the hub here.

“We’re focusing our efforts on economic recovery and employment opportunities as part of our COVID-19 recovery plan, and part of this is about driving new opportunities for jobs and support for those losing paid employment.

"Citizens Advice Stevenage has been further commissioned by the council to provide advice and guidance to anyone facing hardship in Stevenage, and we’ve also relaunched our Social Inclusion Partnership with CA Stevenage to explore new opportunities to help tackle child and family poverty.”

A Herts County Council spokesman told the Comet: "The council has been supporting multiple child poverty initiatives, particularly following the government’s announcement of the COVID Winter Grant Scheme in November 2020.

"Since the grant’s announcement the council and its partners have:

  • Delivered over 63,000 free school meal food vouchers to support children during the Christmas, February half-term and Easter holidays.
  • Provided over 1,600 supermarket vouchers for two year olds who are eligible for free early education.
  • Delivered over 4,900 supermarket vouchers to support a range of groups such as Care Leavers, families supported by our Money Advice Unit and families claiming Housing Benefits.
  • Boosted capacity of Herts Help and its Crisis Intervention Service.
  • Provided additional funding for Hertfordshire’s Food Bank network.

"We are also supporting families via the HAPpy Holiday Activity Programme. Working with a range of partners including Herts Sports Partnership and the Hertfordshire Community Foundation, to offer enriching activities and healthy food for children aged 5 to 16 during the school holidays."

"We recognise that there are many families in difficult financial situations, particularly in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

"We are therefore working closely with its voluntary sector, NHS, local communities and district council partners to form a broader poverty strategy for Herts."

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