Three year old Leo Sapiano cut the ribbon with the aplomb of a seasoned celebrity to officially open the Catholic Children's Society's Toy Library at their family centre in Poplar, East London, yesterday. Leo will be one of the many children now able to borrow a wide variety of well made educational toys. Welcoming the guests, who included several of those who had generously contributed funding to make the Library a reality, Jim Richards, the Society's director thanked all those who had helped in this co-operative venture. He went on to say: "One of the reasons we need toy libraries is that far too many families live in such poverty that they are unable to afford the toys that provide children with the constructive play that is the foundation for future learning. 43% of London's children live in poverty, the highest proportion in the country, with Tower Hamlets being the poorest borough in London having over 60 per cent of the children receiving free school meals". He said: "The gap between rich and poor in the UK and London in particular, is widening and is already the widest in the EU. It is the role of voluntary organisations such as the Catholic Children's Society to speak out against such inequalities so that children are not denied their birth right". * A report by the Office of Children's Rights Commissioner for London on October 29 revealed the following facts about London's 1.65 million children: - Child poverty is greater in London than in the rest of the country and childhood illness is more acute. - 43% live in homes earning below half the national average income. 34% across England - Children of asylum seekers, travellers and the homeless are not even included in the official statistics and are over-represented in London - Infant mortality is similar to that of comparable European cities, but London has lower birthweight babies. Inner London has 6.7 deaths per 1000 births compared with 5.7 for England. - Long term childhood illness is higher in London than the rest of the country - At least 100,000 five to 15 year olds in London have mental health problems - Teenage pregnancies top 62% per 1000 girls in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, compared with 45% nationally.
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