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Leicester to target child poverty


A series of measures has been unveiled today to help nearly 30,000 of the poorest families in Leicester and tackle growing child poverty.

Council and business leaders are to work with schools, community and volunteer groups to help people struggling to make ends meet.

Leicester Child Poverty Commission has outlined 66 steps – both short-term and long-term and related to education, health, family finances and employment – to help the most deprived people in the city.

Its proposals include establishing a citywide network of food banks, helping credit unions set up offices in deprived areas where doorstep lenders are thriving and offering low- cost council loans for essential furniture and white goods.

There are 26,000 children from families in poverty according to the Government's definition of their income being less than 60 per cent of the national median income.

That is about £357 a week for a couple with two children.

Deputy city mayor Rory Palmer, who established the commission in 2011, warned the city was on the verge of a child poverty emergency, saying: "That figure of 26,000 is deeply worrying. It is more than a third of young people.

"We need to do something to help because there is powerful evidence about the impact it has on their lives.

"It can leave them nine months behind in their educational development and that can have a long term effect.

"We need to shield young people from the worst effects of poverty.

"As a city council we have to take the lead but we know we can't do it alone which is why we need to work with business, MPs the public sector, and volunteer groups."

"Our recommendations are not a wish-list that can't be afforded. They are feasible and practical and would make a real contribution to tackling the worst impacts of child poverty in Leicester."

The national Child Poverty Action Group is also involved in the strategy.

Chief executive Alison Garnham said: "Children living in poverty are more likely to be left behind in education. They are almost twice as likely to live in bad housing. They miss out on experiences most of us regard as part of growing up. These proposals must serve as a spur and framework for action, so that all children have decent childhoods and no child is denied the opportunities that others take for granted."

The commission also wants to encourage energy companies to provide fairer tariffs, including removing penalties in tariffs for those who use paper billing, and support "grow and eat" schemes to encourage healthy eating and mitigate rising food costs.

A summit is also to be convened with the 25 leading employers in the area to discuss the role of businesses and employers in reducing child and family poverty.

The council will track the progress of the recommendations and publish a report before May 2014 on their impact.

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