Northumberland MP warns children could be manipulated into a life of crime due to rising poverty

More children could be manipulated into criminality due to rising poverty, a MP has warned.

By David Sedgwick
Friday, 17th September 2021, 12:00 pm
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery.

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery claims levels of deprivation have surged faster in his constituency 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.

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Wansbeck Valley Food Bank has seen an increase in demand in the past 12 months.

“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 findings in his report, 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.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness says a 75 per cent cut in funding for youth services since 2011 has had an impact on kids, especially those in rural communities, exposing them to criminality.

She added: “Without real investment 2.25m young people will be left behind living in predominantly rural areas, living in villages, towns and coastal areas, more than 30,000 of these young people are from Northumberland alone.”

Fearing the worst is yet to come, Ms McGuinness is calling on the Government to urgently invest in youth services.

Mr Lavery also believes deprivation levels in the North East are the second highest in the UK, after London.

In the Wansbeck constituency a third of all children – 5,079 – are believed to be living in poverty, up from a quarter five years ago.

And in a further blow for the area, Mr Lavery has warned the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift could be "life-changing" for the region’s poorest families.

“Coming down the track is the fact they’re going to withdraw the uplift in Universal Credit and that will push hundreds of thousands of people into poverty,” he said.

“We’re one of the richest countries in the world but we have kids in my constituency living in poverty – it’s outrageous.”

Wansbeck Valley Food Bank, set up in October 2012, has seen a continuing year-on-year growth in the demand.

Last year it supplied in excess of 85,000 meals to 5,000 adults and 3,000 children and this year volunteers expect to supply around 95,000 meals to 9,000 children and adults.

And they fear the numbers could be even higher after the cut in Universal credit, the end of furlough and anticipated increase in energy bills.

Sheila Rowley, on behalf of the Trustees, said: “In these circumstances, prolonged food poverty seems an inevitable consequence. Sadly, it is very likely that the only way clients will be able to put food on the table is by way of the food bank.

“At the moment, we are coping with current demand, but should this situation continue into early 2022 then we may be faced with some very hard decisions.

"Hopefully, as in the past, we will with the help of the local community, rise to the occasion and continue to support those who are facing food poverty.”