South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay has been condemned for having an “appalling” and “complacent” attitude to child poverty in Thanet.
Jackie Walker of Momentum Thanet said: “I find our MP’s response to the most recent Thanet child poverty figures showing children in our area are the poorest in the south east of the country absolutely appalling and complacent.”
The figures, published last week by the charity End Child Poverty Now, show that more than a third of children in Thanet are living in poverty – almost 11,500 under-18s. This is 2% higher than the figures released one year ago.
Responding to the figures Mr Mackinlay said: “Poverty is an emotive word which suggests a picture that we associate with true third world conditions.These are very rare anywhere in the UK and practically non-existent in Thanet.”
He added: “We could simply pay more out in benefits and make them easier to obtain: it may end the hard measure of child poverty as currently calculated, but would it improve society, or simply create a greater disincentive to work, and make those in work that much more disgruntled with their workless neighbour who appear to be having a better life?”
Calling these comments “extraordinarily complacent” Jackie Walker said: “Children do not ‘find themselves’ at this level of poverty in Kent, as Craig Mackinlay says – the reality is they are the victims of the acceptance of Britain as a low wage economy where taxpayers subsidise poor wages to enable businesses to have higher profits. These children are the victims of austerity and cuts to welfare – policies which Mr Mackinlay has always voted for.”
Jackie added: “It is not a question of being ‘emotive’ as Mr Mackinlay says. On the contrary it is a material reality for too many children in the UK and in Thanet in particular. I wonder what experience our MP has of working for poverty wages to speak about incentives in the way he does, given in particular the well above average increase in MPs wages that he voted for.”
The chair of the charity which produced the report, Sam Royston, also responded strongly to Mr Mackinlay’s remarks, pointing out the realities of children living in poverty.
Mr Royston said: “Behind these figures are real children’s lives. Children living in families who struggle to put food on the table, or to heat the home through the winter. Children who are less likely to do well at school because they can’t afford the same books and activities as their peers. Children who are more likely than other children to develop mental health problems. Children who are even likely to live less long than their peers – simply because of their background.”
Mr Royston also warned that the situation is likely to get worse. He said: “Benefits and tax credits for children have been frozen for a four year period, meaning that they will see no increases right up to the year 2020. By this point, increases in costs of living will mean the cash in people’s pockets will go even less far than it does today.”
Jackie Walker called on Mr Mackinlay to look again at the problems of child poverty in Thanet and to take urgent action to alleviate the problem. She said: “I ask Craig Mackinlay to attend to the needs of the most vulnerable of his electorate and seek ways to reverse this trend that sees Thanet at the bottom too often when it comes to economic disadvantage.”
Jackie Walker will be speaking at a meeting about the future of the Labour Party in Broadstairs at 7.30pm on Wednesday 23 November in the Red Hall, 11 Grosvenor Road, Broadstairs.