Almost a third of children in the North East are living in poverty.
As a group of young people, we at the Gateshead Youth Assembly think this is unacceptable and believe that all young people should have an equal chance.
Young people at the Gateshead Youth Assembly have come together to develop a child poverty strategy: this shows our ideas, what we think will alter the way child poverty is handled and viewed in the North East. The strategy is a group of ideas that the young people of the assembly have developed through personal ideas and group discussions. We are confident that our strategy would make a difference as it not only looks at supporting young people living in poverty, it also looks at educating young people who are more fortunate and do not.
The ideas are as follows:
- Improve housing: restore rundown family houses, neighbourhoods and rebuild where necessary.
- Tackle the cost of school and improve schools: Provide second hand uniform shops/banks which will ensure good quality second hand uniform is available at reasonable prices or free of charge. Provide free bus passes where pupils need to travel on public/ school transport for educational purposes. Ensure that school kit is reasonably priced so families can afford them. Provide more grants for low income young people in schools. Provide breakfast clubs and lunches so people can eat at school. Bring back the Building Schools for the Future program, so that all our schools are better.
- Improve family incomes: Introduce a living wage. Get rid of the youth wage, all people of all ages should earn the same. Increase child benefit; make it for all young people. Ensure child maintenance works by ensuring payments are made and not take it off benefits. Increase heating allowances over winter.
- Ensure no young person goes hungry: Subsidize healthy food so everyone can afford it. Provide food grants for low income families. Make sure breakfast clubs and free schools meals are available to all low income young people and ensuring that families on low incomes have the information/ support they need to claim these benefits, and work to cover provision over the holidays. Look at supporting families to grow their own food with seed banks and allotments etc.
- Make the childhood experience better: Provide free leisure activities to young people from low-income families. Provide programs to raise aspirations. Ban or change alcohol and junk food advertisements; so young people don’t get bombarded with them (as you have done with cigarettes). Change citizen curriculum to include money management, raise aspirations and highlight issues with alcohol, drugs and junk food.
- Make things fairer: Cut higher wages – avoid helping people get super wealthy. Harsher penalties and community service for people convicted of crimes.
- More work opportunities for younger people: Look at moving public sector jobs out of London.
- Tackle stereotypes of young people in the media and wider society.
The assembly recently did a weekend workshop on Child Poverty with a PhD student working on developing a child poverty strategy with young people. Over the weekend we looked at all the pros and cons of growing up in the North East area and came up with projects to help young people over the North East region. These include:
- A scheme to give students Secondhand School uniform
- Promoting Healthy eating in schools
- Giving out free school meals over the Christmas break to children that have free school meals
- The Breadline project: promoting child poverty awareness in the North East
- Holding a conference with other young people to inform others of our ideas and facts/figures.
- Creating a Regeneration Map of the North East to show the parts of the region that the assembly thinks needs regenerating.
We feel that by encouraging the involvement of young people and adults from all areas of the North East, to participate in activities, designed to look at poverty and the impact this has, not only on families in general, but also the impact it has on young people in particular and their long term futures; we can raise awareness, educate young people and aim to reduce childhood poverty and its long term affects in the North East.
All of our ideas are in the early planning stages and may change if they prove to be unnecessary or they duplicate someone elses work, the projects will also be tweaked to best suit and represent young people in Gateshead.
Mirander de la Haye
Gateshead Youth Assembly member