Islington has the second-highest child poverty rate in England, with almost half of kids living below the poverty line, figures released on Wednesday show. According to the Campaign to End Child Poverty 46 per cent of our children – a total of 18,000 – are living in hardship.
Only Tower Hamlets (57 per cent) has a worse child poverty rate, while neighbouring Hackney (44 per cent) and Haringey (41 per cent) both compare favourably to the borough. Islington, often seen as an affluent area, is now England’s second-most-deprived local authority in terms of child poverty.
This is despite the fact that, last month, the council’s fairness commission reported it was “on target” to find solutions to the borough’s inequality problems by April.
The desperate situation of these 18,000 children seems unlikely to improve as they grow up in a borough where:
– the lowest paid 20 per cent of workers earn just a quarter of the pay of the top 20 per cent.
– there is a difference in life expectancy of up to five years between wards, while men in Islington have London’s lowest life expectancy.
– the unemployment rate of black, minority and ethnic residents is twice that of white residents.
Tim Nichols, spokesman for the Islington-based Child Poverty Action Group, said the figures proved the government were not doing enough to support the poorest families.
He said: “Islington may have some millionaire townhouses, but it has a lot more families living in poor-quality housing with low pay.
“These families need more support from the government to ensure they have a minimum income standard and better access to jobs.”
Islington has reacted with shock to the news that it has the second highest child poverty rate in England.
Figures released yesterday by the Campaign to End Child Poverty showed that almost half of the borough’s children – 46 per cent – are living in hardship.
A council spokesman said last night: “We know the rate is very high, but child poverty is a massive council priority. We’re taking a lot of steps to fight it but there’s no silver bullet.”
Emily Thornberry MP, whose constituency Islington South and Finsbury has an even higher child poverty rate of 49 per cent, called the figures “inexcusable”. She said: “The new child poverty figures clearly show shocking levels of inequality.
“It is inexcusable that despite our country’s wealth, 49 per cent of children in my constituency live in poverty.
“I worry this situation will only get worse. The coalition Government are imposing the most severe cuts to the boroughs with the highest levels of child poverty. They must think again.”
A child is said to be in poverty if their household income is below 60 per cent of the national median.
Lucy Rigby, Labour councillor for Holloway, blamed the policies of the Liberal Democrats, who spent ten years in power at the town hall, for the high rate.
“The Lib Dem council sold a lot of council property off and built nice new flats – a mistake which is a large part of the reason for these figures,” she said.
“I don’t see the situation improving when the current government is cutting child benefits. We were aware that Islington is one of the most deprived boroughs in the country but the news is still shocking.”
However, George Allan, Lib Dem councillor for Clerkenwell, said the high poverty rate was down to the high level of social housing in Islington.
He said: “We always knew it was bad but we didn’t know it was quite this bad.
“One of the reasons for this is that we have one of the highest levels of social housing.
“This means Islington’s like a nursery for people. You get a migration inwards of those looking for social housing and a migration outwards of people who are getting jobs.
“If you get a good job and want to buy a house then you just can’t afford to do it here so you move. This means the current child poverty rate is unlikely to change.”
‘LIFE IS HARDER’
Linda, a full-time mum, has four children aged six to 18. They live in Clerkenwell.
“Life is harder, but you’ve just got to get on with it. School trips are very expensive. They went to London Zoo the other day and it cost £7. Out of my income that’s a lot of money. They need to start cutting the prices we have to pay for everything. I’ve got to give my 16-year-old money every day for college, I need to get uniforms for the two at primary school, which they get through on a regular basis playing football and things. The majority of my money goes on my kids.”
Sammy Jones, a shop assistant, has two children aged five and three. They live in Angel.
“There are people with a lot of money, and money is being taken from my pocket in order that they can look after themselves better. The government is not looking after us. I’ve lost my working tax credit and child tax credit has been cut down. It is difficult for people like me who don’t have a lot of money. It’s got a lot tougher since the start of the year and it’s only going to get harder. After the budget, there are going to be a lot of things I won’t be able to buy my kids.”
Rose, a full-time mum, has eight children aged three to 18. They live on Finsbury Estate.
“I am a mother of eight children and life is very hard for me at the moment. Everything is expensive – cars, electricity. Other people go on holiday but we can never do that. It was difficult before but now it’s got harder. Everything has gone up, things that cost a pound now cost so much more. At the end of the week we don’t have a single penny in our hands. I have a big boy and girl and I can’t buy them the things they want because I need the money for food.”