Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council
Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council

On Monday, I am presenting a motion to Cherwell District Council calling on it to take seriously the issue of child poverty in our area.

We stand in the midst of the biggest crisis since World War 2. The Coronavirus pandemic has torn at our community.  Many have died. While for many others; life will never be the same again.

We are only just emerging from lockdown. The virus is still out there, and people will continue to die from it. Meanwhile, businesses and community infrastructure that has spent over 100 days locked down, are trying to start up again.

It may seem odd that I am putting a motion like this at this time.

The economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic are going to be unprecedented. Good businesses will fail. People will lose their jobs. Some will lose their homes. People who have survived the virus may become victims of destitution.

It should be to our enduring shame that Cherwell witnessed the biggest increase in child poverty in the County in the last 4 years. Between 2015 and 2019, child poverty in Cherwell rose by 3%. More than the other districts or Oxford city.

Let’s break that down a little bit. Banbury Ruscote, the ward I represent, is one of the most deprived wards in the South East. But the figures are still astounding. 890 children in Ruscote living in poverty. That’s over 33%.

The impact of poverty on a child’s life chances is well known. Kids from areas of deprivation still largely end up in low-paid jobs no matter how bright they are or how hard they work. This perpetuates the cycle. Poverty brings with it not just worsened life chances, but shorter lives.

Oxfordshire County Council produced a report earlier this summer which shows that people in Banbury Ruscote live around on average 7 years less than people in Deddington, less than 7 mile away.

Ruscote is not isolated. In Banbury Grimsbury & Hightown, it’s more than 550 children living in poverty. More than 20%.

It’s not just isolated to Banbury. In Bicester Town ward, child poverty is at almost 20%. Kidlington South, nearly 17%. Leafy Launton & Otmoor, 12%. The figures for every ward in Cherwell show a substantial increase in child poverty in this period.

To anyone paying attention nationally, this will not be a surprise. Prior to 2010, child poverty was at record low levels. It has risen since. Wage stagnation. Benefit changes. The increasing unaffordability of the private rental sector. I’m not here to point the finger though. The national story is well enough known. But we live in a district of supposed growth, yet we are seeing records of child poverty worse than anywhere else in the County. Among the highest in the South East.

All these figures are from the period before the Coronavirus outbreak. In the last 6 months, 11,500 children have entered an NHS hospital because of illnesses linked to malnutrition. Just imagine how much worse this could get knowing what we know about what our economy is set to face.

It is time for action on child poverty. And that is the purpose of my motion.

Bicester Advertiser column from Councillor Sean Woodcock, Leader of the Labour Group on Cherwell District Council

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