I was shocked at the new figures on child poverty. And angry. The most vulnerable in our society are paying the price for austerity. What kind of society is this? Things must change.
The Child Poverty Commission has broken down the latest national data from the DWP and it reveals devastatingly high levels of child poverty across the Tees. All five boroughs are the top 20 worst hit areas in the country. Middlesbrough is top. Hartlepool is fourth, Redcar is eighth. That is a travesty. It is shameful. And completely unacceptable.
Across the Tees we’ve seen child poverty rise significantly over the past five years as a result of a decade of Tory austerity. We've had 10 years of Conservative governments and four years of a Tory mayor in Teesside and nothing has been done to address this crisis. In fact it is getting worse for our young people year on year.
We have a Government that tells us work is the way out of this, but that’s a real slap in the face for the working households who are doing their best to make ends meet but still falling through the cracks. I've worked with families that have no food in the fridge, that have to chose between heating and eating. That is a scandal. And we have a government that whips its MPs to vote against feeding the poorest children in society. At Christmas!
Here on the Tees we have a mayor who boasts he has made progress on jobs but the reality is behind the big promises, we have fallen further behind the rest of the UK on employment, on wealth and health. I want better for our people. All our people. And all our children. Even before Covid we were losing jobs, had a declining economy, falling wages and rising child poverty. It’s all 'jobs tomorrow', but what about today? Our people and our communities can’t wait. Rather than warm words and snappy slogans, our people need real support.
As Mayor I would work for positive change. I will work night and day to make sure no child goes hungry in the Tees Valley. That's why I'm in politics in the first place. To change things.
No child should be living in poverty in one of the richest countries in the world. We need to see a real plan of action to tackle this shameful situation, to give our people hope and to provide a way out of the poverty trap through real jobs. If elected I will ensure our children are at the centre of my plans, lifting families out of poverty by creating jobs for everyone, by training up 10,000 young people in green and clean jobs of the future, by sending tech champions into every school to encourage our children into the tech industries of the future. I will launch a 'Get On' scheme to provide the finance and practical support to help people get the skills and training they need to start a business or retrain for a new career, to get secure and well paid jobs and to support their families . I will campaign to make the Universal Credit uplift permanent and I will lobby the government to devolve full control of the employment and skills budget to the Combined Authority to give us the power and resources to deal with this once and for all. And I will launch a Child Poverty Commission on day one. I will bring business, council, health and education leaders together to work together on a coherent and costed plan to lift our children out of poverty and secure the future they deserve. We can't let them down.