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Where is the worst area in Kent for child poverty?

By Matt Leclere

Thanet has the highest proportion of children living in poverty in Kent - despite figures improving more than anywhere else across the county.

Data published today reveal one in three youngsters in the district - a total of 11,500 - are living below the breadline.

But Thanet, at 35%, has seen the highest fall in poverty numbers in Kent in the past year, with a 4% drop compared to 2017/18 levels.

Scroll down to hear from Joe Howes, chief executive of Buttle UK

Figures show 35% of children in Thanet are living in poverty in Thanet
Figures show 35% of children in Thanet are living in poverty in Thanet

The data shows Swale (34%) and Folkestone and Hythe (32%) are the next highest areas.

Medway and Dover (both 30%) and Ashford (29%) are all above the countywide average of 28%, with almost 125,000 children affected across Kent.

Research carried out by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, and campaign group End Child Poverty, uses a new method said to give a more accurate picture than previous studies.

Charities say they are seeing the impact of poverty across the south east every day.

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Joe Howes, chief executive of Buttle UK, said the applications they receive for grants from families requesting help is "heartbreaking", adding: “Children are missing basic essentials - like their own bed to sleep in.

“But we only have the resources to do so much. What we really need at this stage is for all UK political parties to prioritise this issue and work with the voluntary sector.”

Campaigners from End Child Poverty are now calling on politicians and the government to address the crisis through a series of ambitious proposals, including an overhaul to benefits and reforming Universal Credit.

Anna Feuchtwang, chair of End Child Poverty, said: “We know what causes child poverty and we know how to end it.

“We know that the income of less well-off families has been hit by severe real-terms cuts in benefits and by higher housing costs.”

The group wants benefits, including housing support, to be linked to inflation again and make up the real-terms loss as a result of a four-year freeze and lower than inflation increases.

Kent charity Porchlight is blaming political decisions for leaving people with "nowhere to turn" and staff are working with more people than ever before.

Chris Thomas, the charity's spokesman, said: "Poverty is a major cause of homelessness.

WATCH: Last year's child poverty figures explained

"We're working with more and more people who are struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis due to a lack of truly affordable housing and changes to benefits that should be helping them get back on their feet.

"We're seeing people who have to choose between feeding their family, heating their home and paying rent. Many are in work but are still unable to afford the basic cost of living.

"People’s lives are being impacted by factors that are completely beyond their control. The government needs to recognise the effects of its political decisions that are removing the social safety nets and leaving so many people with nowhere to turn."

Newington in Ramsgate is recorded as having the highest child poverty rate in the district at 51%.

Cllr Karen Constantine (Lab), who represents the ward at Thanet District Council, says the system is a "vicious circle" with children struggling to break out of poverty.

"My key concern is that kids born into this sort of poverty can't escape it"- Cllr Karen Constantine

She says issues are continuing because of changes to benefits and a "poor labour market" with few jobs available for working women.

"My key concern is that kids born into this sort of poverty can't escape it. You can predict their education, job and even their health outcomes.

"It's a postcode lottery as to where you are born or live, it's not based on talent or abilities.

"This is a result of a decade of austerity. It's a political choice, it can be different."Cllr Constantine says a report looking at social mobility in Thanet and addressing "things that can be done" is due to be published this week.

The coalition defines poverty as families with an income of 60% of the national median.

MP Craig Mackinlay says Universal Credit is "strengthening work incentives"
MP Craig Mackinlay says Universal Credit is "strengthening work incentives"

The level for a couple with one child under 14 - after taking housing costs into account such as rent or mortgage, utilities and insurance payments - is £314 a week (£16,400 a year).

This drops to £204 a week (£10,700 a year) for a single parent and one child, adding £52 per week (£2,700 a year) for every additional child under 14 and £110 per week (£5,700 a year) for every extra child over 14.

Campaigners are urging the government to slash the two child limit for child allowances on tax credits and Universal Credit and pushing to reverse cuts to children’s services and invest more in mental health, education, childcare and social care.

South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay says the government is working to tackle "the root causes of poverty" adding he believes Universal Credit is "strengthening work incentives".

“We’re all very lucky to live in Thanet, but I’m well aware that some families find it more difficult than others to make ends meet,” he said.

“I appreciate there’s much more progress to be made so we must target support at people who need it, and provide opportunities through work for all.

“Lower income does not necessarily mean the usual understanding of poverty as it is more commonly understood.”

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