Thursday, 24 November 2011

Child Poverty, Definately Not a Thing of the Past

Jonathan Miles devoted his morning show on BBC Radio Newcastle yesterday to child poverty and our conference "Child Poverty, Definately Not a Thing of the Past" at the Sage, Gateshead. One elderly lady heard it and made her way to the Sage to see for herself some of the 11,000 photographs depicting child poverty taken by north east children and young people last summer.

She told us when she heard on the radio that poor children and young people could not get to the seaside because the bus fares are too expensive, she thought of her free bus pass and felt sick at her good fortune when so many children and young people never go anywhere unless they can walk it.

Earlier this week one of our supporters phoned Children North East bitterly disappointed with our Christmas appeal. She felt it wrong that donations would support children of parents living on benefits. In her opinion these families do not deserve charity.

Public opinion about poverty is very polarised. Even if you chose to ignore government figures that 24% (132,000 0 to 19 year olds) in the north east are living below the official poverty line; or you chose to ignore 11,000 images of poverty taken by over 500 children and young people this summer of every part of our region; many people still chose to blame the poor.

Professor Tracy Shildrick of Teesside University told the conference her research in Middlesbrough over 12 years found virtually no evidence of the so-called 'multigenerational' workless families who make a 'lifestyle choice' to live on benefits. Instead she consistently found parents who wanted to work but in the absence of well paid, sustainable jobs found themselves constantly moving in and out of short term poorly paid jobs with spells on benefits in between.

The conference generated over 100 actions for participants, organisations working together and messages for government. Top message was to stop blaming the poor, instead shame the overpaid and the tax dodgers into contributing to the common good.

Children North East is determined to build on the success of our conference to do all we can to ensure Child Poverty becomes a thing of the past.

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