One in five children are living in poverty in Knowsley, one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK.
The situation has become starker since the pandemic, with a jump in families claiming universal credit as well as a rise in the number of children receiving free school meals since 2019.
In secondary schools in the borough, nearly half of all pupils are now in receipt of free school meals, while families of over a third of primary school pupils also receive support with lunchtime meals.
The extent of the borough’s child poverty was the subject of a child scrutiny meeting held at Huyton municipal building on Thursday night, where officers discussed some of the complexities and implications and practical measures being taken to address the high levels of child poverty in Knowsley.
What’s being done to relieve poverty issues?
Some of the programmes to address poverty, including those focusing on tackling the low levels of breastfeeding in Knowsley, the high levels of child obesity and some of the mental issues associated with the pressures of living in poverty were discussed by officers on Thursday night.
Approaches to increase parental income and work with budgeting was also discussed by head of early help and child protection Jo Parry.
Cllr Hugh Malone said: “You’ve mentioned employment a lot, what are we doing short term?”
Ms Parry said: “It’s all those services that contribute to the daily lives of children, including getting children into school and maximising parental income and encouraging employment opportunities.
“If we get a person back into employment, it’s not necessarily going to take them out of poverty though is it?”
Ms Parry said: “No not necessarily, obviously anything that we do to maximise their income, whether it’s through employment but also looking at the other aspects of their life like managing money.”
She added: “Some people find it difficult to manage money, helping with budgeting, healthy eating, how to shop better so they’re not having to spend as much money so it is all those things that people will work with families on to maximise their income and minimise their outgoings.”
Access to hardship fund
Cllr Malone asked about the borough’s £100k hardship fund and how easy it is for families to access.
Ms Parry said: “All they need to do is speak to their social worker or early health worker and they can make that request and that fund is provided.”
For those not in touch with social services, Ms Parry said that people can get in touch with the contact centre.
She added: “It’s not just in children’s services, it’s across the council.”