A Kent County Council report from February has revealed that 34.7% of children from Northgate ward, Canterbury, are from low income families. Kent Online has since revealed that this makes it the eighth worst area for poverty in the county, with higher rates of poverty than any of the London boroughs. Though eight of the ten highest wards of children from low income families are coastal areas, Northgate is one of the two exceptions. As a result, the Canterbury Society is hosting a meeting to discuss what action can be taken.
Rosie Duffield, M.P. for Canterbury, says: ‘The report from Kent County Council uncovers the shocking levels of poverty in the Canterbury district. After years of austerity, we need local jobs, paying the Real Living Wage, to push people out of poverty and raise living standards. It has long been known that child poverty exists on our doorstep, but with the recent revelations that this is worse than the London boroughs, we need to see swift action immediately. Time and time again, I hear from families who are struggling, who feel helpless in the face of an inhumane welfare system, further pushing them into the cycle of poverty.’
Alan Baldock, Councillor for Northgate Ward and Leader of the Labour Group, says: ‘I’ve lived in Northgate all my life. For too long, life has proven to be a struggle for so many families living in the area. I, along with the rest of the Labour Group, despair that nothing ever seems to get better. Time and time again, we see this and it is always the same, with poor housing and insecure employment blighting the lives of so many families.’
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Rosie Duffield, Labour MP for Canterbury, expresses fury with Conservative-led Kent County Council who cannot sustain the school funding system in Kent for children with the most need. KCC have announced that from this autumn they cannot offer legally-due funding for the autumn term for some newly-assessed children with extra educational needs.
Rosie Duffield is demanding answers from Councillors and Directors at Kent County Council about the funding shortfall in their Education Department. Some students with High Needs Funding have found that promised places on courses have been withdrawn just days before the new academic year; the Local Authority is unable to confirm that they will be able to provide any funding for affected students until December.
With students already excited about going back to school, parents and carers of children who have been newly identified to have extra support needs, are finding places jeopardised and even withdrawn at short notice. Rosie has communicated with Patrick Leeson, the Corporate Director of Children, Young People and Education, only to be told that KCC ‘no longer [has] a reserve’. KCC have under-budgeted and as a result are failing some of the most vulnerable students for whom they bear responsibility.
The Council has a duty to administer High Needs Funding Support in cases where students require support costs exceeding £6,000. Rosie says, ‘the outrageous decision from KCC to hold back funding from some of the most vulnerable children in our system must be reviewed. Some parents and carers will have to stop work to look after children without places who now must remain at home. These children have just been assessed and places were offered to them before the summer on the understanding that KCC would fund them where the support costs exceed £6,000. The Council’s decision is an abomination that will result in an increased number of young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs). I have been contacted by concerned Headteachers of primary, secondary and further education provision in Canterbury and Whitstable; this decision by KCC is affecting not only schools in my constituency, but all education provision across of Kent.’
Rosie continues, ‘I will be writing to Justine Greening, the Secretary of State for Education to demand answers about the behaviour of this Local Authority. The Department for Education must step in as soon as possible. A failure to fix this broken system is a failure of multiple Conservative administrations and I will not stand for it.’