"Help us bring joy to Bradford district's poorest children"

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: T&A editor Perry Austin-Clarke and Sarah Gate of the Human Relief Foundation T&A editor Perry Austin-Clarke and Sarah Gate of the Human Relief Foundation

Today the Telegraph & Argus launches an important appeal to provide just a little Christmas joy for some of the Bradford district’s 37,000 children who live in poverty.

We have teamed up with Bradford-based international charity, the Human Relief Foundation, to raise money to provide Christmas presents for deprived youngsters who would otherwise go without.

Businesses, organisations and individuals are urged to support the Telegraph & Argus Children’s Secret Santa Appeal to enable as much money as possible to be raised by December 21 to spread a little festive cheer.

T&A editor Perry Austin-Clarke said: “In this era of fantastic scientific and technical advancement, of massive corporate and financial profits, of seemingly endless supplies of computer games and mobile phones, it is, frankly, abhorrent that so many children live in poverty.

“The fact that so many children on our own doorstep exist below the breadline, often in appalling conditions, is a source of shame for all of us.

“This appeal is not going to change the world but we hope it will prick a few consciences while, at the same time, helping to bring just a little joy into the lives of some of the poorest youngsters in the district.

“We are proud to be partnering the Human Relief Foundation in this appeal and we know that we can rely on the generosity and goodness of our readers to join us in an effort that will help all those who donate to feel they can enjoy their Christmas dinners just that tiny little bit more.”

Human Relief Foundation president Dr Nabeel Ramadhani said: “We have promised to help hundreds of children to have a magical Christmas this year but we know sadly there are thousands across the district for whom it will be a less than merry Christmas.

“We would love to be wrapping up thousands of gifts to reach as many of them as possible – but we can only do this with your help.

“We’re hoping people will come up with all sorts of fun ideas to fundraise for us whether it’s giving us donations rather than spending on Secret Santas in the office, organising a raffle or having a non-uniform day at school or selling buns.”

And he added: “We will be keeping a close eye on what are the top toys for this year and where possible will be buying them all from local shops so we are feeding back into the local economy – that way we are helping even more people.

“We’ve already got volunteers ready to come and help wrap at our headquarters in Claremont, all we need now is people’s generosity to make it happen.”

The issue of child poverty is not going away in 21st century Bradford. A child is considered to be living in poverty if their household income is less than 60 per cent of average wages.

But Councillor Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children’s services, has warned that more and more families in the district are falling below the breadline as living costs continue to outstrip incomes.

In recent months, we have reported about a charity making a desperate plea for donated food for struggling families.

We also revealed that terrified parents are being "ambushed" for payments by loan sharks' heavies with vicious dogs at school gates in Bradford as they struggled with repayments Many families in Bradford are living on only £12 per person per day after housing costs which has to stretch to cover food, electricity, water, gas and bus fares, according to children’s charity Barnardo’s.

Three-year-olds in households with incomes below £10,000 per annum are 2.5 times more likely to suffer chronic illness than children in households with incomes above £52,000.

Barnardo’s believes child poverty, which it describes as a scandal, will only be tackled when action is taken to improve both the income and the access to services that the poorest families have.

Barnardo’s chief executive, Anne Marie Carrie, said: “We know that money matters to the poorest families – especially when rising living costs, stagnating wages, a weak labour market and spending cuts are placing more pressure on them than ever before.

“The reality is unrelenting: the effects of growing up in poverty can not only destroy long-term health but crush childhood aspiration, result in low educational outcomes and remove any opportunity a child may have had to successfully enter the world of work.”

Barnardo’s fears a further one million children will be pushed into poverty unless action is taken now to tackle the deprivation issue and says that can be done by tackling debt for starters.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, who have two centres in Bradford helping families, said: “We know, from the thousands of families we work with across the country, that low income is at the heart of child poverty.

“Every day, many are struggling to provide their children with the basics – mothers forced to choose between repairing the boiler or buying their child a winter coat.”

To donate a gift, go to www.secretsantabradford.com

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