TODAY Stockton North Labour MP, Alex Cunningham, urged the Prime Minister to take immediate action to address the catastrophically high levels of child poverty in the North East, just a fortnight after Johnson visited the area for a PR opportunity.
The Prime Minister recently made a press trip to Stockton North constituency to attend the Fujifilm vaccine complex in Billingham to celebrate the area’s involvement in the coronavirus fightback, but he snubbed Alex’s offer to welcome him to the area.
Alex’s intervention today comes after the latest available figures from the North East Child Poverty Commission (NECPC) show that more than one in three children and young people across the North East were living in poverty in 2018/19. The North East has seen the steepest rise in child poverty levels of anywhere in the country – rising from 25.6% to 34.4% in Stockton North between 2014/15 and 2018/19.
Yet two out of five children living below the poverty line are still not entitled to free school meals as a result of ‘eligibility requirements’ – prompting NECPC to call for an extension to free school meals to all children in households receiving Universal Credit.
Today, at Prime Minister’s Questions, Alex demanded Boris Johnson tackle these worrying figures by taking long term action on Universal Credit and free school meals to lift thousands of children above the breadline.
“It is a national disgrace that in Britain in 2021 there are hundreds of thousands of children who are growing up in poverty and do not have access to enough food – the fact that this includes over one in three children in our area utterly breaks my heart.
“But yet again, the Prime Minister kicked the issue down the line and again demonstrated his lack of understanding of poverty and the need to prioritise it. This Tory Government is choosing to push thousands more families with children into poverty and keep them there. It is indefensible in modern Britain, and it ought to shame them.
“The Tories want to talk a big game on levelling up, but this needs to mean more than shiny projects. It should mean our children have the same opportunities as elsewhere in the country, but right now our children are not even getting the bare minimum.
“The Tories need to get these basics right first and put an end to this national scandal, and prioritise children’s lives over vanity projects.”