Almost a quarter of children in Copeland are living in poverty according to a shock report.

Figures from End Child Poverty show that  after housing costs more than 3,000 children - 23.12 per cent - are living below the breadline.

And the Citizens' Advice Bureau Copeland has revealed that some families face a stark choice between heating and lighting their homes, and feeding their children.

The charity dealt with debt issues totaling almost half a  million in an eight month period between April and November this year alone.

A report from Gillian Elliott, Area Manager Copeland, is due to be presented to the county council's local committee for Copeland on Tuesday, November 27.

It will be an overview and update of the work carried out by Citizens Advice Copeland to tackle the scourge of poverty blighting the borough, with the committee asked to note the report.

Ms Elliott said: "Poverty affects more than one in four children in the UK today. When kids grow up poor they miss out.  They miss out on the things most children take for granted: warm clothes, school trips, having friends over for tea. They do less well at school and earn less as adults.

"Any family can fall on hard times and find it difficult to make ends meet. But poverty isn't inevitable. With the right polcies every child can have the opportunity to do well in life, and we all share the rewards of having a healthier, fairer society.

"CAB Copeland are committed to helping people living in the most deprived wards are continuously looking at ways in which they can work with partners to provide the help and support people need to build more stable and secure futures. Over the next year they want to highlight the problems of those who are on low incomes and who are in work and in debt or just about managing.

"These households face multiple barriers and for some impossible choices as to what they should prioritise - a healthy meal for their children or heating and lighting their homes."

The CAB Copeland runs a money advice service offering face-to-face appointments, telephone advice and budgeting support to address the crisis.

The independent charity is run by a small team of paid staff and a dedicated team of volunteers.

It provides free, confidential and impartial advice for the people of Copeland with offices in Whitehaven and Millom.

The service aims to help people maximise income from benefit entitlement and help people to manage their debts.

The team received referrals from organisations including Copeland council, Age UK West Cumbria, Copeland Community Mental Health Team and the Royal British Legion.

Case study 

A single mother got into financial difficulty following the breakdown of her relationship. She was staying in a jointly-owned property and was responsible for all the household bills including the mortgage.

She was in receipt of Universal Credit to top up her part-time earnings but this was not enough to cover her mortgage re-payments and utility bills despite her working extra hours in a bid to make ends meet.

Because of the shortfall, she started getting deeper into mortgage arrears - and faced the threat of eviction and being made homeless along with her children.

Commenting on her plight, a CAB Copeland said "poor help" was available for people in her circumstances. It also found that the current Universal Credit system failed to provide adequate financial help; that the payments were not enough to cover the interest being repaid on a mortage; and that the payments from UC were "paid as a loan rather than a benefit".

The woman was unable to afford the house on her income level and she managed to get a housing association property which allowed her to cover her living expenses but not leave her with enough spare cash to settle her debt of £29,000.

She has now filed for bankruptcy.

The figures 

Between April 2018 and November 2018, 211 clients have been seen dealing with 472 debt issues.
Total amount of debt dealt with was £476,069.27. This was made up
of £91,641.17 (priority)
-  £384,428.10 (non -priority).

-  64 per cent of those helped were disabled or had a long term health condition
- 55 per cent were female.
- 29 per cent were single parents or couples with children, 43 per cent were single
- 47 per cent were in rented accommodation (44% social, 13% private)
- 17 per cent were in employment and 32 per cent were unemployed
- 43 per cent had household income of less than £15,000
- 49 per cent were aged between 18 and 49, 8 percent were over 75.

The is a breakdown of clients helped by ward in this period:
Beckermet 2 per cent
Bransty 3 per cent
Cleator Moor North 8 per cent
Cleator Moor South 6 per cent.
Distington 5 per cent.
Egremont North 7 per cent
Egremont South 2 per cent
Frizington 2 per cent
Harbour 13 per cent
Haverigg 3 per cent
Hensingham 9 per cent
Hillcrest 2 per cent
Holborn Hill 8 per cent
Kells 3 per cent
Millom Without 3 per cent
Mirehouse 5 per cent
Moresby 5 pr cent
Newtown 12 pr cent
No Fixed Abode 1 per cent
Sandwith 4 per cent
St Bees 1 per cent
Other 2 per cent