Statistics released on the 10th January by the ‘Campaign to End Poverty’, providing a child poverty map of the whole of the UK, have shown that 22% of children in Oxford are living below the poverty line.
This presents a stark comparison to the 7% child poverty rate found in Witney, the Prime Minister’s own constituency. In Blackbird Leys 36% of children are living in poverty, whilst only 4% of children in St Margaret’s, and 5% of children in Headington are deemed to be below the poverty line.
With cuts and changes to benefits in place, the Institute of Fiscal Studies has previously warned the Coalition Government that unless they alter their approach to tackling national debt, child poverty in the UK could rise by 400,000 by 2015. Peter Skinner, Labour MEP for the South East stated that ‘leaving children on the poverty scrapheap costs us billions picking up the pieces of damaged lives and unrealised potential. It’s a false economy if we don’t prioritise looking after children today.’ Continuing his attack on government policy, he alleged, ‘In the last year the UK economy has flatlined and unemployment has hit a 17 year high as brutal cuts hit places like Oxford. Families will be £1,000 a year worse off and this will push them into poverty.’
He suggested that a better approach to the current economic situation would be Labour’s five point plan, which would fund up to 5,000 jobs for young people in the South East. However, Benjamin Maconick, Keble student and co-chair of the Oxford University Liberal Democrats claimed that ‘yes the average family will be worse off, but there isn’t any way of eliminating a deficit (i.e. cutting spending and raising taxes) that doesn’t make the average family worse off.’ Changing the focus of the debate, he stated that question that should be being asked is why ‘so little was done to address child poverty in the good years? It was virtually stagnant under the Labour government despite the longest sustained period of growth in post war history.’ And the raising income tax threshold, increases in capital gains tax, the continuation of the bank levy and the 50% income tax band were measures that Maconick highlighted to illustrate that the coalition is not ‘targeting’ poor families.’
Reacting to the news, Ameer Kotecha, Vice-President of RAG (Raise and Give), Oxford Student Union’s Fundraising Organisation, explained that RAG’s chosen charities for this year are Refuge, Oxford Development Abroad, Oxford Homeless Pathways and Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (OSAARC). He clarified that whilst none specifically deal with child poverty, Refuge assists children suffering from domestic violence, and OSAARC those who have suffered rape. In the past, child poverty charities have been aided and RAG can do so in the future, as any individual is free to nominate a charity for them to support, and the entire student body votes on all nominations.