Lifeline for deprived Fylde families

Peter Collins

Peter Collins

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DEPRIVED Blackpool families are set to get more support from children’s centres as part of a £100,000 Government pilot scheme.

Yesterday, The Gazette revealed how the number of children living in poverty in the resort is soaring.

A report issued by Save The Children shows a third of all children – roughly 9,000 youngsters – are now facing financial hardship.

And professionals have warned both the health and attainment prospects of children will suffer as they often face school on an empty stomach and in shabby uniforms.

Today however, the Government has announced extra £3m support for families in challenging circumstances and Blackpool is on of nine areas in the country picked to pilot the scheme.

Funds look set to be targeted at encouraging more mothers to breast feed, develop parenting skills programmes and building up better links between vulnerable families and children’s centres.

Raising the attainment of children at age five is also a priority of the £100,000 payment by results programme.

Blackpool Council will set targets to ensure help and support reach the most vulnerable families.

The boost has come at a time when families are in desperate need of support. Peter Collins, postmaster for Grange Park and former councillor says he believes problems with poverty have worsened on the Blackpool Estate.

He said: “On Grange Park we have seen a lot more people who would have normally been employed in seasonal work by now who have simply not been able to find jobs.

“This affects children because families are missing out on that income, and because they are not working, they miss out on Working Family Tax credit top ups.

“This means a whole new generation of children are falling into the poverty trap where they wouldn’t have been in previous years.

“It is obvious families on the estate are struggling and cutting back on things like food, help is needed to stop this problem getting worse.”

Around 30 local authorities will receive a share of £3m in the next two years.

The boost to children’s centres will be welcomed by many families as Government cut backs has seen two Sure Start Children’s Centres face the axe.

Sue Harrison, service director of Learning, Schools and Communities said: “We always welcome any extra funding to help us look after vulnerable children.

“Many of our children’s centres are classed as outstanding in OFSTED reports and it is very pleasing that this has been recognised by the government, hence why our bid for funding has been successful.

“It’s positive news for many of our centres and we will shortly be looking at the areas which will benefit most before allocating direct funding.”

Children’s minister Sarah Teather said: “Parents are the most important influence in a child’s early life.

The experiences of children in their earliest years can shape their future life chances for years to come.

That’s why we want to support families to bring up their children and Children’s centres are where much of this work takes place.

We want them to be places where communities come together.”