This week on Tuesday the Institute of Fiscal Studies published its latest report. The BBC picked up their forecast that 600,000 more children are likely to fall into poverty in the next 2 years. The IFS published a similar report in October last year in which the forecast was 300,000 more children were likely to fall into poverty. The forecast has doubled in a year.
Yesterday the unemployment figures were published. Unemployment is now higher than any time since 1994. In the last 3 months the sharpest rise has been in the North East to 11.7%. More part time jobs have been lost than full time ones. There are now 991,000 16 to 24 year olds without jobs, a national disgrace.
Last night I went to a Newcastle City Council public meeting to discuss the impact the Welfare Reform Bill will have on people in the city. The Bill sets out a simplified benefits system, which is welcomed by campaigners, but at the same time reduces many present entitlements. For example restrictions and 'caps' on Housing Benefit is likely to mean families needing to move to smaller or cheaper properties with lower rents, but the stock of properties is limited in Newcastle; so we could see more people falling behind on paying rent, more hardship and possible homelessness. This is on top of changes to Tax Credits which makes child care relatively more expensive, increased food and fuel prices for working families.
From December this year lone parents will no longer be entitled to Income Support once their youngest child reaches their 5th birthday. They will be forced into work - but where are the jobs, especially part-time ones so that lone parents can fit work around school times?
This morning Shelter published research that private rented houses are now 'unaffordable' for families on average incomes in 55% of local authorities. Shelter found rents had risen at one-and-a-half times the rate of incomes in the 10 years up to 2007.
On a positive note, this week Children North East has a new member of staff whose job is to help us create opportunities for young people in the organisation as volunteers, apprentices and work experience. A small contribution to give young people a sense of purpose, and to feel less excluded.