Don’t ‘suffer little children’ into poverty, Bishop of Stepney urges government

Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman

Bishop of Stepney Adrian Newman - Credit: Archant

The Bishop of Stepney has called on the government to reverse the growing levels of child poverty which is hitting many families in the run-up to Christmas, especially those struggling on benefits or income support.

Bishop of Stepney at his manse in Bow

Bishop of Stepney at his manse in Bow - Credit: Archant

Bishop Adrian Newman, whose area covers the three inner-London boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Islington, accuses Theresa May’s ministers of failing children as poverty increases in the community.

It follows latest statistics showing that show Tower Hamlets is the local authority having to tackle the highest levels of child poverty anywhere in the UK.

Nearly 44 per cent of children in the deprived East End are living on the breadline, according to the End Child Poverty campaign.

This is closely followed by other London boroughs including Islington at nearly 38 per cent, ranked fourth on the national ‘poverty’ list, and Hackney at just over 37pc, ranked seventh—all three in the bishop’s domain.

“The scale of child poverty is hugely disturbing for London and the East End in particular,” he said.

“We are failing to recognise children as created in the image of God when poverty becomes so prevalent in a community. We only affirm to each child the value God places on their life by seeking to eradicate child poverty in our communities.”

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His warning follows research by the Children’s Society last week, suggesting that the government’s benefits freeze and forthcoming welfare cap will likely push a further 53,000 children into poverty in London alone.

Bishop Adrian has joined other leading Church of England figures in calling on the government to “act decisively to reverse the growing trend of child poverty” in Britain.

East End families in poverty pay more for everyday living than elsewhere, according to a Toynbee Hall report first revealed in the East London Advertiser in 2014.

They fork out more for essentials due to the ‘Poverty Premium’, with Low-income households finding it a daily challenge paying for food and services.

The ‘Poverty Premium’ indicates those who can least afford it have to pay more for everyday living because of “unfair pricing policies and inadequate financial services and payment mechanisms”, researchers found.

They are paying top prices for goods and services, with a high level of catalogue debt, fuel costs, car insurance and loans which create a Tower Hamlets Poverty Premium, for example, of £786 over and above living costs.

Churches in the Diocese of London are involved in several projects in the East End tackling child poverty. The parish nurse St Peter’s in Bethnal Green, for example, guides children and families to where they can get support and advice on health issues through a DIY health group run with a local school, which has become a trusted source of advice and a supportive network for parents.