'Task force should be set up to tackle child poverty in Central Beds by 2023'

A task force should be set up in Central Bedfordshire to end child poverty before 2023, it has been claimed.

By Euan Duncan
Friday, 30th October 2020, 2:59 pm
Updated Friday, 30th October 2020, 3:02 pm

The problem was on the increase again in the county before the pandemic, according to Labour Parkside councillor Antonia Ryan.

She has written to the council’s director of children’s services Sue Harrison warning that if nothing is done child poverty will continue to rise.

In the letter, councillor Ryan said: “I’m sure that, like me, you welcome the work done by Marcus Rashford and local charities to shine a light on this issue.

Child poverty remains an issue in Central Bedfordshire

“This is our time to act to end child poverty, which isn’t just about putting food on the table or paying the bills.

“It’s about making the life, talents, and aspirations of every child matter, and giving them every opportunity to fulfil their potential.”

The letter contained information from a 2019 index “setting out a clear picture of how (some) families within Central Bedfordshire are living within the deprivation marker”.

Councillor Ryan explained these families “will be reliant on the extension of free school meals to make ends meet”.

More than 150 families signed up for food parcels in Houghton Regis during lockdown.

“This shows how much need already exists within our communities,” she warned.

“It’s important we all have a genuine understanding of these issues, rooted in the facts and in compassion for those struggling financially.

“The stigmatising and dangerous rhetoric only leads to more children going without.

“As such, I request we use this opportunity to set up a task force of officers and councillors from all parties to eradicate child poverty within Central Bedfordshire before 2023.”

CBC has agreed to extend free school meals, the letter acknowledged.

“We can’t forget that child poverty was rising again before this pandemic, with our own inequalities in Central Bedfordshire, and if nothing is done it will continue to increase.”

The letter suggested more than 1.4m children and their families nationally would have benefited had a Parliamentary vote supported rather than opposed extending the free meals into school holidays.

“I’ve copied in all Central Bedfordshire councillors as I’m sure they’re as concerned about this issue as I am,” she added.

A council spokesman said: “Our director of children’s services has received and responded to councillor Ryan’s letter, and agrees child poverty is an important issue which crosses many areas of the local authority’s work.

“The council already has a number of projects and initiatives to support children and families in need, with many services delivered through its children’s centres and elsewhere.

“She’s advised councillor Ryan to raise this important issue at the next children’s services overview and scrutiny meeting, which takes place on November 17th.

“Our children’s services team has high ambitions for Central Bedfordshire’s young people, and welcomes the opportunity to have an open discussion about what more it can do.”