New figures published yesterday by the End Child Poverty Coalition show that there are over 30,000 children in Leicester living below the poverty line. That’s 6,000 more than there were in 2015. Leicester saw the biggest increase in child poverty in the East Midlands, and one of the highest in the country overall.
This is an appalling indictment of the Government over the last decade. Even before the pandemic hit, we were experiencing high levels of child poverty in the city. Since then, 2,500 more children in Leicester are claiming free school meals, the number of people claiming Universal Credit has doubled, and there has been a 300% increase in the number of people using foodbanks.
Child poverty does not just affect children while they’re growing up, it impacts them throughout their lives and affects us all. If children find it hard to study and work because they’ve gone to bed hungry, or live in overcrowded housing that makes it difficult for them to complete their homework, it makes it harder for them to achieve their full potential. And if they cannot achieve their full potential, then our country as a whole misses out on their talent, throughout their lives.
I chair Feeding Leicester, a partnership that aims to end hunger in the city, and we are doing our best – but we cannot reach everyone who needs help. We cannot build back a better country if children are still growing up in poverty. The Government needs to take action to tackle this serious issue.