Northumberland MP warns children are being 'manipulated' into crime by poverty
Children in Northumberland are being lured into lives of crime because of ‘rocketing’ levels of poverty in the county, according to one of the region’s most senior Labour MPs.
A report by Ian Lavery, a former chairman of the party who has represented the Wansbeck constituency since 2010, found levels of deprivation had surged faster than anywhere else in the UK between 2014 - 2020.
And he warned more pain could be on the way due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
Read more: Go here to see more Northumberland stories
“A toxic mixture of low wages, lack of opportunity, and a hollowing out of our public institutions and infrastructure on the back of a brutal decade of austerity has left our communities on their knees,” he said.
“Most people simply want a secure fulfilling job, a home they can call their own and the opportunity to raise a family, yet this modest goal is becoming unattainable for too many young people growing up in our region.”
He added: “Things also need to change before the levels of child poverty reach completely unsustainable levels and the worst economic, social, and political consequences become a reality.”
According to the findings, a ‘disturbing picture’ has emerged in many parts of Northumberland, especially in the south east of the county, with youngsters ‘easily manipulated by drug dealers offering them huge sums of money’.
The report, titled ‘A Way Out of the Dark? - Steps to a Better Future for Wansbeck’s Children’, a follow-up to a 2019 paper, claims: "With so few quality job opportunities, especially for those performing poorly in schools, it is easy to imagine how a child who sees no conventional route out of poverty through hard work may become involved in drugs.
"Once involved it is incredibly difficult to break out, and the chronic underfunding of prisons has made them fertile ground for those looking to recruit more vulnerable young people for their organised crimes."
The MP's research has also suggested deprivation levels in the North East are the second highest in the UK, after London.
In Lavery’s Wansbeck constituency, which is slated to be abolished in a proposed redrawing of the region’s political map, a third of all children - 5,079 - are believed to be living in poverty, up from a quarter just five years ago.
But it also warned the true figure could be much higher, with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic and the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift yet to be fully seen.
Elizabeth Simpson, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council’s opposition Labour group, said: “The government has been sitting on its hands for over a decade while child poverty levels have been rocketing in our communities.
“Following the pandemic child poverty levels are reaching a critical point, yet as it stands things are only set to get even worse.”
For the latest local news in your area direct to your inbox every day, go here to sign up to our free newsletter