'Parents go without food' as child poverty rises fastest in Ipswich

More than 7,000 children are considered to be living in poverty in Ipswich, according to a new study

Ipswich has had a 39% increase in child poverty from 2015 to 2019 - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Child poverty has risen faster in Ipswich than anywhere else in the East of England over the past five years - with more than one in five young people now living in deprivation.

Department for Work and Pensions figures show that 28,031 people in Suffolk aged under 19 live in a home where income is below £18,480, which is 60% below the average income of £30,800.

Between 2015 and 2020, the figures in Ipswich grew from 6,698 to 8,160  - a rise of 39%, a faster increase than anywhere else in the region.

It grew by 23% in Babergh, 26% in East Suffolk, 14% in Mid Suffolk, and in West Suffolk by 21% over the same timeframe.

Behind these figures are the stories of parents who go hungry so their children will not go without, says charity Home-Start in Suffolk - which supports parents facing challenging circumstances.

CEO of Home-Start Suffolk Tara Spence

CEO of Home-Start Suffolk Tara Spence - Credit: Home-Start Suffolk

Its chief executive, Tara Spence, said: "The majority of parents will do anything for their child.

"You often come across families where the parent sits with no heating till the child comes home from school.

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"Parents do an excellent job with very little support."

Ms Spence added that referrals during the pandemic have gone up as parents on low incomes have been on furlough, are in precarious job situations or have lost employment when they have no savings. 

"You have parents who are not just running out of nappies," she said. "There are none left that day."

Ian Fisher

Ian Fisher, leader of the Conservative group at Ipswich Borough Council, thinks more cross-party consensus is needed on child poverty. - Credit: Ipswich Borough Council

But, most of all, she thinks families struggling just don't know what support is out there - a point echoed by Ian Fisher, from Ipswich Conservatives.

Mr Fisher said: "We need to look at deprived families where English is not the first language. They need to know the help is out there."

He also said a £20 uplift in Universal Credit until September 2021, as well as more free school meals during school holidays, has helped a lot of struggling families but "more needs to be done". 

Jack Abbott, Bridge division councillor at Suffolk County Council said he welcomed the first steps to introduce permit...

Jack Abbott, Labour's spokesperson for children’s services and education at Suffolk County Council, said the government has "dragged" its feet on poverty - Credit: Archant

Jack Abbott, from Ipswich Labour Party, fears more that even young people could be struggling under the radar.

“Ipswich has seen the largest surge in child poverty in the East of England and Suffolk as a whole has seen a 27% rise," he said.

"When including housing costs, there were an estimated 50,000 children living in poverty before the pandemic - that figure is likely to be much higher now."

Liberal Democrat Inga Lockington thinks the "low wage economy" is one reason for high levels of child poverty in Ipswich.

Cllr Inga Lockington

County and borough councillor Inga Lockington - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"If parents don't earn enough it's going to be difficult," she said. 

"The pandemic has taught us it's important to have access to computers, phones, internet, which I'm not sure benefits cover." 

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