The shocking number of Devon children living in poverty

More than a third of all children are living in poverty in some parts of Devon – with those living in Torridge, Torbay and North Devon being the hardest hit.

In one part of East Devon, a shocking 34% of children are estimated to be living in poverty.

Charlotte Vowles

New Government figures have revealed that a massive 37,485 children in Devon were living below the breadline in March 2019. This was even before the cost of housing was taken into account.

Some 27,337 of those children were living in poverty despite one or more of their parents working – 73% of the total.

The overall number means that around one in every seven children in Devon is living in poverty (15%) – although that figure is higher in some areas than others.

For Devon, the proportion stands at:

  • 20% in Torridge
  • 17% in Torbay and North Devon
  • 16% in West Devon,
  • 15% in South Hams and Plymouth
  • 14% in Mid Devon and Teignbridge
  • 13% in East Devon
  • 11% in Exeter

Analysis of hyperlocal data – areas with a population of around 1,500 people each – also shows that the situation is even more stark in particular neighbourhoods.

In one part of East Devon, a shocking 34% of children are estimated to be living in poverty.

See the [ONS] map here.

Use our interactive widget to see the proportion of children living in low income families in your neighbourhood: [You need to access this through the devonlive web site]

Charities have also warned that child poverty is only going to get worse because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Judith Cavanagh, coordinator of the End Child Poverty coalition, said: “These figures from Government show the extent to which we have been failing children in poverty even before the outbreak of coronavirus. 

“We have not all entered this crisis equally. Children in poverty will be among the worst affected by the crisis as households see their income hit further, through loss of employment and the increased costs of staying home – such as food, fuel bills and supporting home schooling. 

“Policies such as the two-child limit on children’s benefits and the benefit cap have made a significant contribution to the rise in child poverty over the past five years. 

“As more families now have to turn to the benefits system as a result of coronavirus we are urging the Government to scrap those policies, which they argued acted as incentives to get people into work.

“We would also like the Government to introduce an immediate increase to child benefit of £10 per child as a fast and effective means of getting support to low income families. 

“Children in low income families have been failed over the past 5 years. Our response to Covid-19 must not fail them again.”

The figures include teenagers up to the age of 19 who are still living at home with their parents or carers and are in full time education or training. 

The proportions are estimates based on DWP figures on the number of children living in families with a household income of less than 60% of the UK average as of March 2019, and population estimates from the Office for National Statistics as of mid-2018. 

They can only offer an approximation of the proportion of children living in poverty – but the DWP have confirmed that they do give a broad indication of local areas with a very high or very low proportion.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We are doing whatever it takes to support the lowest paid families through these unprecedented times, implementing an extensive package of measures to do so.”

Torridge District Council has been approached for comment.


Ministers seem to be guided only by the science they want to hear 

[Note the reference at the end of this editorial that highlights the power of patronage. Toe the line or else! – ring any bells closer to home?]


With the prime minister’s chief adviser attending the scientific advisory panel during this crisis, it is right to ask whether ministers are guided only by the science they want to hear

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies is a body of experts convened to counsel ministers on how to handle specific crises. When dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the government likes to say it is “guided by the science”, but what is that advice and who gives it? Sage’s meetings are closed affairs, its recommendations private and its minutes, if they are ever published, turn up weeks late. Until last Friday, the group’s members were unknown. When the Guardian revealed who was attending Sage, a possible reason for the secrecy emerged.

It was the presence of Dominic Cummings, the prime minister’s chief adviser, at the meetings rather than the scientists that made the headlines. This might explain how Britain stumbled into the crisis. Sage was meant to offer a clearer separation between scientific truths and political values. It has allowed ministers to claim that they are being guided by objective reasons rather than ideology. But having a political adviser of Mr Cummings’ importance, and a data analyst who worked with him on the leave campaign, at Sage pierces that argument.

It also makes it harder to claim there was not a political cost to ministerial judgment calls based on evidence tainted by ideological influence. Sage recommended less stringent social distancing measures when other European capitals implemented tough policies. Its experts underestimated the percentage of people who would have to be hospitalised. The conventional response of lockdown, mass testing and tracing was snubbed initially in favour of “herd immunity”. This was a costly mistake – making it harder to source chemicals, and personal protective equipment. What was Mr Cummings’ role in discussions about these decisions? The public ought to know.

Mr Cummings, with his admiration of computer modelling to “war game epidemics”, is unlikely to be interested in the tried-and-tested preventative measures advocated by the World Health Organization as early as January. In its bulletins the WHO advocated the “test, trace and isolate” regime that Britain only woke up to after allowing the virus to spread unimpeded through the population. Sage’s lack of any public health experts would seem a mistake in the light of the government’s current strategy.

Mr Cummings’ presence will distort a discussion about differences, which are meant to be narrowed through debate. The ability to speak up without the perceived fear of sanction is necessary for a healthy exchange of views. He is known for being disagreeable about disagreement. Scientists on Sage would not dissent perhaps in the way that you might expect them to. It is plausible that Mr Cummings may single out a troublesome academic who questioned whether it was right, for example, for Boris Johnson to announce he had shaken the hands of people infected with coronavirus. (It wasn’t.)

Falling out of favour might cost scientists not just a gong but also lucrative government funding streams. Mr Cummings increases the chances that dissident views on Sage remain just that. What is to stop him usurping the role of the chief scientific adviser who is meant to be the source of advice to Mr Johnson but doesn’t share a personal chemistry with him?

There is no reason why the membership of Sage should be kept secret. Declarations of interest ought to be published. Minutes of meetings should be made available promptly. Who can be relied upon for giving advice in a time of crisis is a matter of national importance. It is obvious that it is best to involve those who are expert in the area. Mr Cummings is not one of them.


UK tourism hotspots could face worst of post-lockdown job losses, especially in Conservative heartlands.

Robert Booth

People working in some of Britain’s most beautiful areas will be worst hit by the expected wave of unemployment following the coronavirus pandemic, according to forecasts suggesting the economic burden of Covid-19 is set to be spread unevenly.

Workers in the tourism-driven economies of the Lake District, Cornwall and the beauty spots of Yorkshire are at the highest risk of being left jobless, according to research by the Royal Society of Arts and Manufacturing.

People living in London, south-east England and the knowledge economies of Oxford and Cambridge are the least likely to lose their livelihoods, the study says.

With 80% of workers in the hotel and food industries on furlough schemes, alongside 68% of those in arts, entertainment and recreation, about a third of jobs are permanently at risk in the longer term in the tourism-reliant areas of Richmondshire, which covers much of the Yorkshire Dales, Eden, which covers part of the Lake District, and Cornwall and the west Devon coast.

Nearly 27,000 jobs are at risk in Pembrokeshire and the Cotswolds alone. Many of the areas facing the biggest job losses are in Conservative heartlands. Last week Visit Britain estimated that Covid-19 would cost the tourism industry around £15bn in 2020, with 22 million fewer visitors to the UK.

“Our analysis finds a stark geographical divide in terms of how Covid-19 could impact local labour markets with rural areas and coastal towns most at risk of high job losses,” said the report’s authors, Fabian Wallace-Stephens and Alan Lockey. “Many of the most vulnerable areas are located in the north and south-west of England. Cities and other urban areas tend to be at less risk, particularly in London or in its surrounding commuter belt.”

The RSA found that younger workers aged 16 to 24 were more than twice as likely to be furloughed as middle-aged workers.

A separate study, also published on Monday, says black and minority ethnic citizens will find the coming economic conditions hardest to weather because they have much less money saved to fall back on.

The Runnymede trust found that for every £1 of wealth and savings held by white British citizens, Pakistani households have about 50p, black Caribbean households about 20p and black African and Bangladeshi households approximately 10p.

There is increasing evidence that black and minority ethnic people are disproportionately represented among the victims of the coronavirus, with many Asian doctors, nurses and taxi drivers among those known to have died.

“As well as the cost in life of Covid-19, economic gaps in society are being exposed and even widened, and the effects may last for a generation, affecting ethnic minorities particularly,” said Omar Khan, the director of the Runnymede Trust.

“During this lockdown, children are being educated at home and some adults are working from home. Many are having to dip into savings, but little consideration is given to those who have no savings to fall back on are not able to work from home and have no IT equipment or not enough space to effectively school their children.”


We need to toughen up for the pain ahead

Max Hastings 

Sentimentality, blame-gaming and poor risk assessment are among Britain’s favourite self-indulgences, and all have lately been on display. In the face of a worldwide figure of 200,000 deaths, and a British one of more than 20,000, what minister could fail to embrace the mantra of safety first?

Who dares to say that the toll is, in truth, small as a proportion of the population? This is a horrible and frightening disease, as some of its surviving victims testify in harrowing detail. But it is killing far fewer people than many countries lose annually to famine and natural disasters. Last year Americans used firearms to kill 15,292 of their own countrymen, together with an even larger number of shooting suicides.

We are slowly recognising realities about Covid-19. There will be no tidy, early ending: it will ebb and flow, with resurgences and possible heavier death counts, for months and perhaps years. Yet the chances that it will kill a healthy, youngish person are less than those of their being eaten by a great white shark.

The overwhelming majority of fatalities had pre-conditions, notably including obesity. Scientists are still baffled about many aspects of the disease. The national lockdown is essential, but the economic and social consequences of sustaining it until we can all be labelled “safe” would be generationally catastrophic.

Nonetheless we see fear in the eyes of many ministers, because they anticipate the storm that will descend upon them, promoted by newspapers that the crisis has done nothing to render more responsible, if they fail to keep in step with public sentimentality.

It is boring to bang on about the war, but hard not to do so, because it was the last period at which our leaders faced similar huge life-and-death decisions. Every course involved risk. Duty required ministers and commanders to choose the least bad from a range of unwelcome options, accepting the need to pay a price in lost lives in the greater interest of the nation.

Until now in our privileged 21st century, we have felt able to elevate compassion to the highest good. But how is compassion most wisely interpreted? Travel offers a good example of the lack of rigour in our usual demands upon those in charge. Every gruesome image of a plane, train or bus crash prompts a call for improved health and safety, which often entails the expenditure of tens or even hundreds of millions.

On December 3, 2005, for instance, two teenage girls at Elsenham in Essex defied klaxons and flashing warning lights to dash over a level crossing. After a speeding train killed them, stupendous sums were spent to strengthen the defences of the entire nation’s level crossings against other reckless teenagers.

Yet we are almost 20 times more likely to be killed by a car than a train, and 100 times more vulnerable on the road than in a plane. The wonderful convenience of driving causes us to display an insouciance about its perils, which we decline to extend to public transport.

Risk aversion now stretches to the armed forces. In a moment of madness, British civilian coroners were mandated to conduct inquests into the deaths of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. A series of show trials followed, which delivered some brutal verdicts on alleged blunders and failures by commanders and comrades. Underpinning those hearings was a desire to respond to relatives’ grief, and apportion blame to someone more vulnerable to litigation than the enemy. No modern general would dare to quote in court the great wartime airman Lord Tedder’s assertion that “war is organised confusion”.

No 21st-century defence secretary can tell a bereaved family that their husband, son or daughter signed up to fight on a foreign field because they wanted adventure, inseparable from danger. Since we stopped fighting, army recruitment has languished: prospective soldiers see less opportunity for excitement.

We are pathetically eager to believe that, if human affairs are managed right, nothing unpleasant need befall anyone. When it does, a lawyers’ carnival follows. It is no longer acceptable to brand any misfortune an “act of God”, not even Covid-19. It is depressing to consider that the only assured beneficiaries of this horror story will be liability lawyers, who are even now licking their lips behind their masks.

Sensible people, however, understand that we have been struck by a thunderbolt for which it is absurd to blame Matt Hancock or for that matter President Xi of China, although his government’s opacity undoubtedly made things worse. Both our government and people now face months of cruel, imperfect choices. In contradiction of the national mood of the moment, neither the disease nor the lockdown represents our worst ordeal. That will commence only when we are stricken, as we shall all be, by their appalling financial and social fallout.

Perhaps we feel able to ingest at one sitting only modest quantities of reality, like President Trump’s disinfectant. In 1941 Alan Brooke recorded a Churchillian observation that seems to fit our condition. The receptive capacity of mankind, said the prime minister, is like a three-inch pipe running under a culvert. “When a flood comes the water flows over the culvert, while the pipe goes on handling its three inches. Similarly the human brain will register emotions up to its ‘three-inch limit’ and subsequent additional emotions flow past unregistered.”

Today, a lot of nasty stuff is flooding over the culvert, bypassing our brains. Awakening on each of these stunning spring mornings, I doubt that I am the only person in Britain who indulges a spasm of blissful self-delusion that the bad dream is over; that, like Bill Murray at the end of the film Groundhog Day, this is the morning on which we step out into the sunshine to find mankind back in its place, and ourselves with Andie MacDowell.

Then we turn on the news. Michael Heseltine speaks of the British people’s “hunger for hope”. The challenge for the prime minister in the months ahead is to assuage this craving as far as he responsibly can, while also coming clean that there will be no Bill Murray moment, no “return to normal”, any time soon.

Every option carries risk. When Britain restarts, there will be renewed surges of Covid-19. More people will perish, almost all in my own elderly age group. More lockdowns will be needed, surely best imposed regionally. Whatever new rules the government decides upon, it should recall the warning of that wise old bird Bill Deedes, Denis Thatcher’s chum, that a minister should never introduce a law or regulation that is unlikely to be obeyed.

An easing of the lockdown should start within a fortnight, the reopening of primary schools being the essential first step, followed by a release of the young, who will otherwise soon break jail anyway. This much is certain: the longer we delay entry into the minefield that is our future, the greater must be the pain, debt and famine of opportunity that afflict our children.


What Cranbrook looked like before the town was built

Daniel Clark

Construction of the new town of Cranbrook to the east of Exeter has seen the area undergo dramatic changes.

What once was green spaces and farmland is being turned into a town that will eventually consist of 7,750 homes with a population of around 18,000.

Around 2,000 homes have currently been built in Cranbrook, with the town having a primary school, an all-through school, a multi-purpose building with GP surgery space and a rail station.

Cranbrook railway station

The only building that has been provided in the town centre is the pub – the Cranberry Farm – but talks are under way for a Morrisons supermarket to the anchor tenant of the town centre site.


And a short distance to the west of the town is the new SkyPark and the Lidl and Amazon distribution hubs which employ thousands of people.

But can you remember what the landscape looked like before construction began?

The Local Democracy Reporting Service takes a look back using Google Maps and up-to-date pictures to show the changes that have taken place over the last 12 years.













Doctors to UK Ministers: Reveal Results of 2016 Flu Drill or Face Court

Unusual source but Owl picked up reference to this on BBC and there are other sources. 

TEHRAN (FNA)- The government faces being taken to court if it refuses to disclose the findings of an exercise confirming the UK could not cope with a flu pandemic.

Dr. Moosa Qureshi, an NHS doctor, is demanding the government publish its report into Exercise Cygnus, a three-day simulation involving government and public health bodies conducted in 2016, The Observer reported.

Qureshi, who is a campaigner with the group, represented by Leigh Day solicitors, has sent a pre-action protocol letter to the secretary of state for health requesting a response.

If the government fails to disclose the findings of Exercise Cygnus without adequate reason, Qureshi’s lawyers will seek an urgent judicial review challenging the decision and seeking publication.

The row threatens to become a major embarrassment for the government. The Telegraph has reported that Cygnus’s findings were deemed “too terrifying” to be made public.

Last week, The Observer revealed that minutes of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group suggested the report had included four key recommendations, including one that the department of health strengthen the surge capability, and capacity of hospitals to cope with a pandemic.

A freedom of information request to see the report has been refused.

Qureshi argues that there is exceptionally strong public interest in publication of the report, given that its lessons and recommendations are “directly relevant” to the procedures developed to combat COVID-19.

“There is no persuasive argument for secrecy when managing a healthcare crisis,” Qureshi stated, adding, “Successful science and healthcare depend on transparency, peer review, collaboration and engagement with the public.

“I believe that if the government had followed the Cygnus exercise by engaging transparently with health and social care partners, with industry and the public, then many of the deaths of my heroic healthcare colleagues and the wider public during the Covid-19 pandemic could have been avoided,” Qureshi noted.

Tessa Gregory, a solicitor at Leigh Day, said, “Our client believes that the NHS workforce and wider public have a right to know what Exercise Cygnus revealed about what needed to be done to keep NHS staff and the public safe in a pandemic.

“It beggars belief that the information the exercise revealed is being kept hidden when a public debate about its contents may well inform important decisions about how to best protect lives going forward,” Gregory continued.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health announced that she could not comment “because of the legal procedures in place”.


House prices in Cornwall appear to be rising faster than in Devon (or Somerset)

Does this reflect a move to purchase a safe haven from Covid,-19 or is it too soon to tell? 

House prices in Devon stand at £309,662 on average 


What’s the average house price in Devon?

The average price for property in Devon stood at £309,662 in April 2020. This is a rise of 0.54% in the last three months (since January 2020) and rise of 3.75% since 12 months ago. In terms of property types, flats in Devon sold for an average of £199,692 and terraced houses for £231,998. This is according to the current Zoopla estimates.


House prices in Cornwall stand at £294,076 on average


What’s the average house price in Cornwall?

The average price for property in Cornwall stood at £294,076 in April 2020. This is a rise of 1.01% in the last three months (since January 2020) and rise of 7.72% since 12 months ago. In terms of property types, flats in Cornwall sold for an average of £208,833 and terraced houses for £222,337. This is according to the current Zoopla estimates.