Children in Morecambe ‘suffering from rickets due to poverty’

Annette Smith of the Morecambe Bay Foodbank.
Annette Smith of the Morecambe Bay Foodbank.
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The extent of child poverty across the district has led to many youngsters now suffering from rickets, an investigation has found.

An ITV report aired this week showed some families in Morecambe were struggling so much that schools are now helping them to wash clothes and charge mobile phones as well as providing schoolwear for some youngsters.

Siobhan Collingwood.

Siobhan Collingwood.

Latest figures from the End Child Poverty coalition show that almost a quarter of children in the Lancaster district are living in poverty. Figures suggest that after housing costs have been taken into account, 3,863 children (25.5 per cent) are living in poverty in the Lancaster and Fleetwood parliamentary constituency, and 5,087 in Morecambe and Lunesdale, 26.4 per cent.

The wards with the highest levels of child poverty are Heysham North with 36.43 per cent and Westgate with 34.22 per cent.

Siobhan Collingwood, head at Morecambe Bay Primary School, said the school now provides a daily laundry service for families who don’t have washing machines or cannot afford the electricity.

“We have had parents pass out in the school hall through doing without meals,” she said. “We help them to join in with the breakfasts in school and take them to the food bank.”

The school has also made present and food packages for children who are not expected to have any kind of Christmas celebrations at home.

“We have asked the children what they want and they don’t come back saying a mobile phone or an iPad, they come back saying they want heat or a roof over their head or food and somebody to love them,” Mrs Collingwood said.

Gill Burns, support worker at West End Primary School, said: “We have given out shoes and coats and are allowing parents to charge up their phone in school if they haven’t got the electricity.

“We can tell if a child looks different from one day to the next. We are vigilant.

“I deal with it every day, it’s heartbreaking.”

As a result, Carnforth GP Dr Andy Knox said rickets – a condition usually seen in developing countries where bones do not form properly – is now making a comeback.

“We have seen things like rickets and other conditions that are associated with malnourishment,” he said.

“It was quite common back in Victorian times. We wouldn’t expect to see this in a developing nation.”

Morecambe mum Valerie Coles said she has been forced to use the town’s food bank to feed her and her son Michael, 10,

“It’s an awful situation to be in when you are sitting wondering if you are going to be able to provide food for your child,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking.

“We had to use the food bank. It’s not degrading as such but you wonder how you found yourself in that situation.”

Annette Smith from Morecambe food bank said: “We have had parents here that are crying and have delayed coming in for two weeks because they are really scared somebody would be judging them.

“We think the number of people we are helping is not the true number of people that need our support.”

Morecambe MP David Morris said: “These claims always seem to emanate from a primary school in Morecambe and the same doctors’ surgery in Carnforth. I have referred these claims in the report to socialservices and the claims regarding rickets to the Department of Health.

“It is vital that the extent of these claims is established by officials and that social services are fully aware of all of the families affected by the claims made in this documentary as it is their job to protect all children.

“These claims are not those being experienced by myself or the Job Centre in the area and I would urge anyone affected to book an appointment with the staff at Morecambe Job Centre to assess if they are receiving all of the benefits they are entitled to and are receiving all of the money and debt management help that is available through the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.”