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  1. ITV Report

More children in poverty coming from working families

Teresa Coyne and her grandson Kayden are supported by ICENI in Suffolk. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Childhood poverty in our region is no longer the curse of the unemployed with more and more working families struggling to make ends meed.

More than two thirds of children living in poverty in our region come from working families.

Charities blame benefit freezes, rising living costs, zero hour contracts and the Universal Credit system.

In the second part of our series looking at childhood poverty we speak to the working parents who say they will ‘never’ be able to retire.

  • Click below for Tanya Mercer's report

Teresa Coyne from Suffolk is Kayden's grandmother and has been his legal guardian since he was four.

She says although her husband works, finances are a constant problem for the family.

Teresa Coyne said: "It can feel like you’ve literally just got your head above the water.

"It’s a juggling game, you seem to constantly have all your balls up in the air trying to make sure that you can balance them, and sometimes it can be really difficult."

Often she and her husband go without to make sure Kayden has the basics he needs. She says she does not envisage her husband ever being able to retire. And mentally it takes a huge toll.

“Sometimes you can feel like the biggest failure," she said. "if it wasn’t for my family and my special friends, I would have gone down the pan."

The ICENI centre is so busy it might have to turn families away. Credit: ITV News Anglia

And many families face a similar problem. Kayden and Teresa receive help and support at the ICENI centre in Ipswich.

The charity says it is at breaking point with the increasing pressures and demand from families struggling to make ends meet.

In the 20 years of its existence they have never turned anyone away, but this winter they may have to do just that.

Brian Tobin, ICENI Ipswich, said: "I can’t see it ending any time now and it makes me so angry when I see families who are doing their utmost and struggling to just get by.

"They have to come to places like this and food banks. Five years ago they would never have imagined they’d be using such facilities."

Two thirds of children in poverty come from working families. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Not only is the situation getting worse, but the face of child poverty is changing too.

Two thirds of children living in poverty will have at least parent who works. So whereas twenty years ago it might have been seen as a curse of the unemployed, now child poverty is affecting working class families too.

Louisa McGeehan, Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Increasingly people are working in zero hour contracts, they don’t have any certainty about how much work they have, it’s often low paid and insecure work in the gig economy, so even if you’re earning a minimum wage you don’t have minimum hours."

At Citizen's Advice in Ipswich they help hundreds of families every year access the support they need.

But they too are noticing the problem of childhood poverty increase, made worse by rising prices, freezes and cuts to benefits and children's services, and the introductions of the controversial Universal Credit system.

Nelleke van Helfteren, Deputy Manager of Citizens' Advice Ipswich, said: "We know that people are making difficult decisions. We have clients who have to make the decision to heat or to eat.

"We have an increased number of people coming to us as a last resort for food parcels.

"We’re seeing, with benefits changes that families are being forced into poverty.

"A lot of clients accessing Universal Credit for the first time need multiple attempts to make the claim in the first place. The waiting time that’s written into the architecture of the benefit is also pushing people into hardship."

A spokesperson from the Department for Work and Pensions told us: "We understand it can be a juggle to balance family life with work and that is why we support parents to find a job that fits in with their caring commitments, and with Universal Credit 85% of child care costs are covered to support parents in work. We are spending £90 billion a year on working-age benefits."

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