Perspective: Poverty-Striken; ...but Could Tony Blair Say If This Child Is Growing Up in Poverty in 1935.or 2005? End Child Poverty Coalition Roadshow

The Birmingham Post (England), April 8, 2005 | Go to article overview

Perspective: Poverty-Striken; ...but Could Tony Blair Say If This Child Is Growing Up in Poverty in 1935.or 2005? End Child Poverty Coalition Roadshow


Byline: Jonathan Stearn

A poor child is likely to weigh less than a rich child at birth, which means a higher risk of infant death.

A poor child runs five times the risk of being killed in an accident and 15 times the risk of dying in a house fire

A poor child is more likely to leave school at 16 with no qualifications.

A poor child is more likely to smoke and drink and to die several years before the rest of us.

In 1999, Tony Blair made a solemn pledge to end child poverty by 2020. Some progress has been made, but according to the latest figures, released by the Government at the end of March, show that not only has this trend slowed down, but in the West Midlands, the number of children living in poverty had actually increased by three per cent.

There are now 3.5 million children living in poverty in Britain - that's three in every ten children. And of the 1.2 million children in the West Midlands, 384,000 children are living below the poverty line.

Although very poor families can be found almost anywhere, more and more, where you are born can mark you out for a life of luxury or deprivation.

New research which calculates the percentage of households with families claiming benefits in each ward reveals that in 87 wards in the region, more than 30 per cent of children are surviving on benefits.

In Birmingham alone, there are 20 such wards, and in ten of these, more than 40 per cent of children live in poverty. Top of the league of shame are Sparkbrook and Aston, with 50.1 per cent and 55.3 per cent of children living on benefits respectively. There are other pockets of severe poverty scattered throughout the region.

Some people still insist that poverty is a result of poor parenting and that poor people squander any money they have on Nike trainers and personal stereos. And the notion of 'deserving' and 'undeserving' poor is alive and well. One struggling single parent, who recently admitted to a newspaper that she smoked, was severely criticised by people writing in.

Unlike the impression of poor families often portrayed on TV, most people do the best for their children when given the chance.

There is research that shows that where poor families' incomes have been improved by tax and benefit reforms they have spent more money on food and other things for their children, such as clothing and footwear, games and toys.

Today, poverty is different, but just as devastating in its own way as the poverty of Victorian England. And in a country like ours, in which, many people are enjoying relative wealth, it is especially odious.

We are talking about families who can't afford to buy basic furniture, warm clothes or healthy food, who can't afford to send their children on school trips and who have never had a holiday.

We recently asked a group of children what they thought it would be like to be rich. One boy said 'If you were rich, you'd have lots of food like chicken and turkey and bread and chips'.

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