I grew up in a loving family in Silvertown.
I didn’t know money was short, because my mum, like many others, worked hard to ensure my sister and I had all we needed and a bit more.
We were lucky. Each year, we went to a seaside holiday camp for one, whole week. Then we’d visit family for a second. I loved those weeks: dancing, fancy dress, crazy golf and swimming. Looking back, it wasn’t really that special, but we loved it and looked forward to it every year.
In today’s Newham, these ‘luxuries’ can’t be afforded by too many of our families. Half our borough’s children live in households in poverty, even before including the rising cost of basic essentials we all need to live.
Intense pressure on housing means we spend ever more on rents or mortgages. Wages haven’t kept up. Average rents on a two-bedroom home now consumes over 60 per cent of the incomes of the poorest quarter of our residents. Last year, that two-bed cost £1,300 per month. A three-bedroom home cost £1,600 per month. As a result, 13 out of every 20 children in our borough live in poverty.
Unavoidable costs like food, fuel and rent are getting ever higher, and parents’ incomes remain low. Children go hungry, sleep in the cold and regularly lose the insecure or temporary roof over their heads. It’s not just a matter of numbers on paper, poverty has consequences.
It’s not because people aren’t working and want benefit handouts to feed and raise their children. Research published last week shows it’s families with children, where parents work full time and receive the minimum wage, who suffer worst.
In 2010, as an MP in Gordon Brown’s Labour Government, we enshrined in law targets to reduce child poverty. For the first time, there was a working plan to ensure no child in Britain went hungry.
Six years later, those targets were abolished, because the Tory Government realised their policies couldn’t meet them.
Theresa May says she’s building a country that works for everyone. Whatever she is building, it isn’t working for Newham’s kids.