Edinburgh’s shame: One in five kids live in poverty

14,000 children in the Capital are living in poverty. Picture: Getty
14,000 children in the Capital are living in poverty. Picture: Getty
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MORE than one in five children is living in poverty in the Capital, according to shock new figures, which show the gulf between rich and poor is widening.

And an emergency report produced to combat the crisis has revealed this figure is set to increase “significantly” by 2020.

The average earnings in Edinburgh have soared to £36,000 in recent years, making it one of the most affluent cities in the UK.

But the report has exposed shocking levels of deprivation, with around 15,000 children living in poverty.

Every council ward in the city has poverty rates of more than ten per cent, with the cost of services to deal with the problem estimated at £156 million a year.

Charity chiefs and politicians blamed the spiralling crisis on childcare and housing costs, with wages failing to keep pace with the cost of living.

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said UK government cuts to family benefits and tax 
credits were also “key drivers of the income crisis”.

“But there are things the council, Scottish Government and employers can do to maximise family incomes and reduce the costs they face,” he said.

“Continuing to invest in advice and information so families get the financial support they are still entitled to is crucial, but so is taking action to reduce costs at school, the cost of housing and the energy bills and transport costs that families face.

“Employers can also play a key role by ensuing work is family-friendly, pays a decent wage and isn’t put at risk when parents face ill health or disability.”

The report, which goes before the council’s education, children and families committee on Tuesday, includes outline plans to deal with the crisis. City chiefs aim to develop “more flexible and affordable childcare”, increase breakfast club provision and work with food banks.

Ewan Aitken, chief executive, of the Edinburgh Cyrenians, said the charity was redistributing 30 tonnes of surplus supermarket food to feed more than 2000 people every week in Edinburgh and the Lothians.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education, children and families leader, said: “The shocking thing is two out of three families in poverty are in work, which is a very worrying trend. Traditionally, work has been seen as a way out of poverty.

“Child poverty matters to us all as it damages childhoods, damages life chances and damages society as a whole. Children from poorer backgrounds lag behind at all stages of education, so it’s important we do all we can to close the attainment gap.

Children are considered to be in poverty if they live in households with less than 60 per cent of median household incomes.

This means that a lone parent with two children is in poverty if they are living on less than £326 a week before housing costs have been deducted.

A couple with two children are in poverty if they have less than £416 per week before housing costs.

Deidre Brock, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith, blamed “vicious cuts to tax credits, benefits and budgets” for “hammering” the poorest in society.

Tory leader Cameron Rose, councillor for Southside/Newington, said standards by which poverty is measured needed to be reviewed and clarified.

He also cited other factors on the increase such as “entrenched worklessness”, family breakdowns, debt, poor education and addictions.

john.connell@edinburghnews.com