ONE in five children in Bournemouth live below the poverty line according to shocking statistics just released.
More than 6,000 youngsters in the borough live in families struggling to make ends and many are going hungry, said the Campaign to End Child Poverty.
Thousands of families are being forced to turn to hard-pressed food banks in the area to ensure their children have enough to eat, as reported in the Daily Echo in December last year.
The official figure of children living in poverty is 19 per cent, compared with a national average of 20 per cent. The figure for Poole is 16 per cent and 14 per cent for Christchurch.
But some pockets of Dorset have figures considerably higher than the average with Kinson South in Bournemouth at a worrying 33 per cent, Boscombe West at 32 per cent, Grange in Christchurch at 30 per cent and Hamworthy West in Poole at 28 per cent.
In contrast, some of the lowest figures are in areas just minutes away from some of the country's poorest families They include Canford Cliffs in Poole, Littledown and Iford in Bournemouth, Broadstone and St Catherine's and Hurn in Christchurch.
Cllr Ben Grower represents Kinson South and said the problem is getting worse.
“This is something which is of concern to the whole of the council” he said. “Unfortunately the problem with child poverty is not being helped by the policies or the current government.
“They are making the problem worse by withdrawing benefits and making it harder for poorer families to exist. Council tax benefit is going and housing benefit is being reduced. The government needs to stimulate the economy so there are more jobs available for people to earn more.”
Head of Community and Economy for Christchurch and East Dorset Partnership, Judith Plumley said: “The Council is aware of pockets of relative poverty in the Borough and is working with other agencies to provide support and practical help where possible.
“We sit on the Dorset Children's Safeguarding Board to ensure that children are not vulnerable to neglect and have procedures in place to report concerns arising from home visits where children may be considered to be vulnerable.
“Our Housing staff also assist families in hardship to apply for grants to local charities and we also refer people to Dorset Reclaim for the purchase of second-hand white goods.”
Councillor Jane Kelly, Cabinet Member for Partnerships and Regeneration, said: "Every child in Bournemouth should have a chance for a happy, healthy and successful life. The Council is committed to investing funds in to improving Boscombe and Kinson and ultimately the lives of children living there.
"The Boscombe Regeneration Partnership has identified six key priorities - housing, employment & enterprise, environment, crime, health and Education & attainment - where positive action can and is being taken to make a real difference to improving the environment and neighbourhoods for people and families living there.
“This work includes more than 1,000 inspections of privately rented accommodation which have taken place to help raise the standards of housing in Boscombe and planning permission has been agreed for 11 new affordable homes.
"Furthermore, the Boscombe Children’s centre has been judged as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, it works with vulnerable families and more than half of all under fives in Boscombe are now registered there.
“This work combined with the work on increasing employment and tackling crime over the next years will improve the lives of Boscombe residents and those households living in poverty.
“The Council is also leading a similar partnership looking at work that can be done to improve the lives of families living in West Howe.”
The chair of the Campaign, Enver Solomon, said families were often forced to choose between eating and putting the heating on and added: “Local authorities are having to deal with reduced budgets but they have critical decisions to make.
“We're calling on them to prioritise low income families in the decisions they make about local welfare spending.”
Child poverty is defined as children living in families receiving out of work benefits or in-work tax credits where income is less than 60 per cent of median income.
How the figures break down
- Bournemouth: 6080 children, 19 per cent. Highest is Kinson South, 33 per cent, and lowest Littledown and Iford, eight per cent.
- Poole: 4647 children, 16 per cent. Highest is Hamworthy West, 28 per cent, and lowest Canford Cliffs, eight per cent.
- Christchurch: 1207 children, 14 per cent. Highest is Grange, 30 per cent and lowest St Catherine's and Hurn, five per cent.
- New Forest: 5012 children, 15 per cent.
- Purbeck: 1083 children, 13 per cent
- North Dorset: 1433 children, 11 per cent
- East Dorset: 1439 children, nine per cent
Top five local authorities for child poverty in the UK:
- Tower Hamlets: 42 per cent
- Manchester: 38 per cent
- Middlesborough: 37 per cent
- Derry: 35 per cent
- Belfast: 34 per cent