"Heartbreaking" figures show toll of child poverty in Renfrewshire communities

A child holding an empty food bowl
-Credit: (Image: Accrington Observer)

New figures have laid bare the “heartbreaking” inequality facing Renfrewshire’s youngsters as it’s revealed almost half of those in some Paisley neighbourhoods are living below the breadline.

The data, released by the UK Government, shows that in communities such as Gallowhill and Ferguslie Park, 43 per cent of all children were living in poverty in 2022/23. By contrast, that figure drops to just five per cent in leafy Howwood.

Anti-poverty campaigners say children from the most deprived communities in Renfrewshire are being failed in the postcode lottery of life chances.

Heather Kay, manager of the Star Project, said the heartbreaking thing is that she expects the child poverty figures to be even higher.

“We’re not surprised by these stats,” she said. “They are shocking but we expect they will be much higher due to the level of in-work poverty in our communities which isn’t recorded in these statistics.

“The postcode lottery is sadly a real thing, and those making decisions keep saying they are going to do something about it and yet here we are.

“One thing we try to work on is the stigma attached to this. The stigma is absolutely huge for the people in the poorest areas like Gallowhill, we need to tackle that. These people need to know they have done nothing wrong and there needs to be a societal break.”

She added: “People are tired of working so hard just to survive. We talk about people thriving and people should be able to do so, people should be able to eat, feed their families and heat their homes without worrying about how to pay bills.

“People are in absolute crisis, it’s not relative crisis anymore, it’s absolute crisis in a first world country and these statistics however you look at them don’t make for good reading.”

The latest government figures reveal that across the UK, 2.5 million 0-15 year olds were living below the breadline in the 2022/23 financial year.

The number has been rising year on year, and is up from 1.9 million in 2014/15. In Renfrewshire one in five of all children are living in poverty while in neighbouring East Renfrewshire the figure is halved at 10.3 per cent.

Most harrowingly, the figures reveal how children living just streets apart face very different challenges. While 43 per cent of children in Ferguslie were living in deprived households, that figure falls to 14 per cent in Elderlsie.

In Renfrew West, 31.3 per cent of children were struggling but in Paisley’s Ralston area the figure was three times lower at 9.9 per cent.

Heather says the Star Project – which works to bolster the wellbeing and resilience of Buddies – says she wants to see tackling child poverty a top priority for all political parties.

She added: “Two years ago a person in our community died of starvation – that should not have happened. We won’t forget that. We are constantly reminded of the stark situations people are living in and it is not good enough. More needs to be done, we need to see action.

“We need safety nets put in place for our communities and they need to be substantial and sustainable to stop people falling through the cracks because we shouldn’t need to bury someone else because they starved.”

Heather’s approach was echoed by Crystal Clayton at Renfrewshire Foodbank. She said: “The figures speak for themselves, I would urge all local election candidates to commit to working together to ensure the social security system is fit for all therefore end the need for food banks and bring all children out of poverty.

“I would encourage them to back the Essentials Guarantee. There needs to be immediate action to improve the situation that people are facing at the moment.”

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