Call for action over child poverty crisis

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CAMPAIGNERS today called for action to help struggling low-income families as figures suggested as many as one in three children live in relative poverty in parts of Edinburgh.

The publication of the first Scottish Child Poverty Map has prompted children’s welfare charities to call for Scottish Government intervention, insisting many families in the Capital now face a decision between buying food and heating their homes.

According to the latest findings, to be classified as “living in poverty” children must be in families which are claiming either out-of-work benefits or in-work tax credits, and who earn less than 60 per cent of the average income.

The study reveals 36 per cent of children in the Sighthill/Gorgie ward are classed as living in poverty, while the figure is as low as five per cent in Meadows/Morningside.

Also showing high levels of child poverty are the Portobello/Craigmillar and Forth wards – both at 30 per cent – Leith at 29 per cent and Liberton/Gilmerton at 28 per cent.

The figures came as no surprise to Craigentinny/Duddingston councillor Ewan Aitken.

He said: “I was talking to a minister friend of mine who said she’d come across a family where they are going out to see what’s getting put out in the bins in supermarkets. These are extreme and heartbreaking stories.

“It’s not just now that’s the issue. If you don’t have the heat and the food on the table as a child, your opportunity to make the best of an education, to make the best of the rest of your life, is greatly reduced.”

Mark Ballard, head of policy for children’s charity Barnardo’s Scotland, said: “No area in the city is free of the scourge of child poverty.

“The Scottish Government has a target of ridding Scotland of the scourge of child poverty by 2020 and we’re going to need a lot of different strategies to tackle this.

“At a time of financial squeeze for the city as well as the government, it’s important to remind people that poverty hasn’t gone away.

“We see families that are having to choose between getting food and buying power cards. That’s the reality of life in parts of our city.”

The national average for Scotland is 20 per cent, with the worst deprivation in Springburn, Glasgow, where 52 per cent of children are living below the poverty line.

The Campaign to End Child Poverty calls for the issue to move up the political agenda, with a rethink of welfare cuts, greater investment in universal credit and more spending on child care and early years provision.

Mr Aitken, founder and chairman of the Youth Bus Trust, said: “There are some families who are living in really extreme circumstances. What happens now, we’ll see its effects 20 years down the line and longer.”