Numbers have revealed the shameful extent of child poverty and hunger in Yorkshire during the coronavirus lockdown.
More than a thousand children in the region were classed as ‘hidden homeless’ – living in temporary accommodation with no fixed home – during the first lockdown, according to figures from youth homelessness charity Centrepoint.
Added to this, foodbank organisation Trussell Trust delivered 23,000 emergency food parcels to households with children across Yorkshire & the Humber in the six months between April and September. The real figure for food parcels is likely to be higher, the Trust said, as it does not account for other community organisations working to ensure children do not go hungry.
Sheffield, Bradford, Leeds and the East Riding saw the highest numbers of food parcels delivered.
The Centrepoint statistics, meanwhile, showed that out of 1,950 households in Yorkshire & the Humber which were living in temporary accommodation between April and June, 540 were households with children.
In total, there were 1,052 children living in bed and breakfasts, women’s refuges or hostels whose families were at risk of homelessness.
Wakefield had a significantly high number with 206 hidden homeless children during the lockdown period.
The rate of people in temporary accommodation across Yorkshire & the Humber stood at 0.84 families per 1,000 – which was below England’s average of 3.39.
It follows the Government’s announcement of a new £15 million package to support rough sleepers during the second lockdown, although homeless charities criticised this as a “piecemeal approach” to funding.
Paul Noblet, Centrepoint’s head of public affairs, said: “To keep rough sleepers safe this winter we need to see a level of focus and funding from the government which matches their initial response to the pandemic earlier this year.
“If we’re to keep people safe this winter, we urgently need ministers to replicate the effective support that was rapidly put in place at the beginning of the pandemic.”
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said meanwhile that although volunteers had been working hard to support people, it was “not right that any of us are forced to use a charity for food, at any time of year”.
She added: “In the last few weeks we’ve seen incredible compassion and concern for people facing hunger following Marcus Rashford’s brilliant campaigning, and it’s hugely welcome to see the Government build on steps already taken by providing significant new funding for local councils in England.
“This vital local support must work in co-ordination with a national welfare system that is strong enough to act as a lifeline to anyone struggling to afford the essentials.”
“This pandemic has shown the unexpected can hit us suddenly, with devastating consequences for people’s lives, but it’s also shown we can make huge changes to the way we live and look after each other.”
Across the UK, food bank demand in the six months to September increased by 47% compared to the same period last year.
More than a third of food parcels went to children during this period – 470,000 in total.
The charity voiced concern that food banks in its network may see high levels of need over the winter and beyond, particularly as redundancies increase.
The top three reasons for someone being referred to a food bank in the Trussell Trust’s network over the period were low income, benefit delays and sickness or ill health.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Our additional £400 million of funding includes £170 million to help families stay warm and well-fed this winter, a further £16 million to provide immediate support to frontline food aid charities, and £220 million Holiday Activities and Food programme.”
Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, said: “The way we have protected rough sleepers from Covid-19 is widely considered to be the best in the world.
“At the start of the pandemic we launched Everyone In, which protected thousands of vulnerable people.
“That work hasn’t stopped and we’ve backed it with £700 million.
“As the new national measures come into force, I am launching the Protect Programme to ensure councils are offering everyone sleeping rough on our streets today somewhere safe to go – protecting people from the virus and moving forward with our goal of eliminating rough sleeping.”
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