SPECIAL REPORT: What can be done to help Northampton’s poverty hotspots?

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Cramped housing, a lack of public space and a shortage of community facilities are just some of the reasons a ward in the centre of Northampton sees nearly 40 per cent of its children living in poverty.

The Castle ward is the biggest in the borough of Northampton encompassing the central area, but figures show it is also the most deprived.

A community leader in Spring Boroughs, one of the poorest estates in Britain situated at the heart of the Castle area, says drastic action needs to be taken to stop the estate becoming further cut adrift from the rest of the town.

Clive Ireson, who runs the Springs Family Centre on Tower Street, says one of the biggest causes of poverty lies in the poor state of its housing.

He has backed the Chron’s Fair Deal for Kids campaign because he feels something has to change. He said: “We have got so many people here in overcrowded housing, even if they are not officially classed as being so by the borough council’s criteria.

“Sometimes you will have mum and dad in one room, the children in another and a teenager sleeping in the living room, but this isn’t classed as being overcrowded. But then think – that teenager has no place to study, no privacy. It creates a vicious cycle of poverty.”

The Springs Family Centre offers families food handouts and free clothing as well as offering young people activities, such as the chance to use its equipped recording studio.

Mr Ireson, who also runs a job club, said the service was used every day. But it is only a short-term solution in an area which needs long-term changes.

“This is the largest estate in the town centre, but there are so few community facilities,” he said. “It’s in a wonderful location, we are so close to the town and train station, but where can the children play?”

Mr Ireson is helping to draw up a Neighbourhood

plan for Spring Boroughs, which he hopes will provide the area with more affordable houses with gardens, more public play facilities and more community buildings.

A public vote will decide whether to adopt the plan later in the year.

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Labour leader: Jobs just don’t pay enough

The leader of Northampton borough council’s Labour Group says casual work and zero hours contracts have contributed to the high poverty rates in the Castle ward.

Councillor Danielle Stone (Lab, Castle) has called for agencies in Northampton to join together and draw up a town-wide ‘poverty strategy’ to tackle the issue.

This week she has given her backing to the Chron’s Fair Deal for Kids campaign, adding that more needs to be done to weed out low paying employers and stop the spread of zero hours contracts.

She said: “There are over 10,000 children in Northampton living in poverty, but we have got to stop pushing people into it.

“There is a lot of zero-hours contracts and casualised work, minimum wage jobs. You can see a lot of the people in poverty are working for a living and aren’t claiming benefits. It’s a national scandal.”

Councillor Stone said many people in the Castle area are using food banks even though they are working as their wages simply cannot cover the cost of goods.

“Poverty to me means, you can’t afford three square meals a day.”