Blackburn with Darwen: Council pledges support to families after study reveals extent of child hunger

NEW findings have shown the shocking extent of child poverty in Blackburn with deep rooted inequalities having been heightened by the pandemic.

This week the Social Market Foundation found that the borough of Blackburn with Darwen has the sixth highest level of child hunger in the UK, with over 8,000 children facing low food security and a child poverty rate of over 30%.

This comes following a campaign spearheaded by footballer Marcus Rashford to highlight child poverty all around the UK, with the SMF study having been sponsored by the star’s child poverty taskforce.

SMF chief economist Aveek Bhattacharya said: “The stark evidence in this report shows that the challenge of food insecurity and child hunger is even greater and more urgent than many observers had thought and feared.

“The idea of a single child going short of food is heart-breaking, but our evidence shows that almost two million children have been in that awful situation this year.”

The study also show that just under 17 percent of children in the borough are on free school meals, 2.4 percent of 4 to 5 year olds with 1.5 percent of 10 to eleven year olds are underweight.

Meanwhile political and charity leaders in Blackburn have pledged to do what they can to tackle this issue.

Kate Hollern, MP for Blackburn, said: “One hungry child is too many and a system that allows two million children to go hungry during a pandemic isn’t a system that’s working.

“The local community and Blackburn with Darwen Council are doing everything they can to tackle food insecurity – having distributed 56,636 meals since 2017 – but the Government needs to take responsibility for the fact that the number of hungry children is on the rise across the country.”

Meanwhile, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council executive member for children, young people and education Councillor Julie Gunn said: “We know that we’ve got wards in the borough with high rates of deprivation and we know that inequalities existed pre-Covid, but Covid has exacerbated them.”

“That’s why we’re working together with health, education and children’s services to put forward a plan for the help hub that will help keep children feed over the winter months, with a voucher scheme that children will be able to use for local traders.

“The best thing about using local knowledge is that we can also help the local economy

“I’m really grateful to Marcus Rashford for raising this and for doing so much to make the government take action.

“If he hadn’t done, who knows where we might now be.”

The authority hopes schemes like this will provide some hope to families in need.

Council leader Mohammed Khan said: “As a Council we are working incredibly hard alongside this to provide food and resources that people so desperately need during this incredibly difficult time.

“I am positive that if we keep on with all our partnerships and hard work we can help people turn a corner and improve their lives.”

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The Westmorland Gazette | North Lancs