Poverty pulling children into crime, MP warns
The latest report by Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery on poverty in Northumberland has claimed rising deprivation is allowing gangs to 'manipulate' youngsters into the drug trade.
Mr Lavery, a former chairman of the party who has represented the Wansbeck constituency since 2010, claims levels of deprivation have surged faster here than anywhere else in the UK between 2014 – 2020.
And he warned more pain could be on the way due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“A toxic mixture of low wages, lack of opportunity, and a hollowing out of our public institutions and infrastructure on the back of a brutal decade of austerity has left our communities on their knees,” he said.
“Most people simply want a secure fulfilling job, a home they can call their own and the opportunity to raise a family, yet this modest goal is becoming unattainable for too many young people growing up in our region.”
According to the findings, a ‘disturbing picture’ has emerged in many parts of Northumberland, especially in the south east of the county, with youngsters ‘easily manipulated by drug dealers offering them huge sums of money’.
The report, titled ‘A Way Out of the Dark? – Steps to a Better Future for Wansbeck’s Children’, claims: “With so few quality job opportunities, especially for those performing poorly in schools, it is easy to imagine how a child who sees no conventional route out of poverty through hard work may become involved in drugs.
“Once involved, it is incredibly difficult to break out, and the chronic underfunding of prisons has made them fertile ground for those looking to recruit more vulnerable young people for their organised crimes.”
The MP’s research has also suggested deprivation levels in the North East are the second highest in the UK, after London.
In the Wansbeck constituency, which is slated to be abolished in a proposed redrawing of the region’s political map, a third of all children – 5,079 – are believed to be living in poverty, up from a quarter five years ago.
Elizabeth Simpson, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council’s opposition Labour group, said: “The government has been sitting on its hands for over a decade while child poverty levels have been rocketing in our communities.
“Following the pandemic, child poverty levels are reaching a critical point.”