Families are being urged to join the fight against child poverty in Birmingham as a report today revealed that nearly half of all under-18s in the city live in the country’s poorest areas.
A Child Poverty Needs Assessment published by the new Birmingham Child Poverty Commission shows that 49 per cent of children in the city – nearly 137,000 – live in England’s top 10 per cent most deprived areas.
The commission, chaired by Matthew Reed, chief executive of national charity The Children’s Society, and established by Birmingham City Council, has now begun its work looking at ways to tackle child poverty in Birmingham.
It has published the report as it prepares to begin public consultation – and is calling on parents and children to share their experiences of how they have been affected by poverty and ideas they may have around tackling some of the root causes.
The Child Poverty Needs Assessment brings together statistics highlighting the scale of the challenge and some of the reasons why children grow up in poverty.
It reveals 37% of children in Birmingham live in poverty after housing costs, while poverty levels are above the national average in more than three-quarters of city council wards. In Sparkbrook and Nechells nearly half of all children live in poverty.
The report also reveals that more than 8,000 children in Birmingham live in the top one per cent most deprived areas in England and Wales.
Matthew Reed, chairman of the commission and The Children’s Society Chief Executive, said: “Living in poverty can often have a severe impact on a child’s happiness and future.
“Any child living in poverty is one too many, and it is simply unacceptable that here in Birmingham there are thousands of children in this situation.
“Poverty is caused by often deep-rooted problems and tackling them will not be easy, but we are determined as a commission to come up with some practical solutions which will begin to address these issues.
“We want to put the voices of children and their families at the heart of our work because only by listening carefully to the challenges they face can we find the right answers.”
Mr Reed added that new policies announced by the Government in this month’s budget, including restricting child tax credits to two children per family and lowering the benefit cap, heightened the need for urgent action.
“These changes will have a real impact upon the millions of children in this country living in poverty, including those in Birmingham,” he said.
“But as a commission we are as determined as ever to bring forward proposals which can help to make a positive difference to their lives and those of their families.”
Commissioners have agreed to focus upon five themes in their meetings and consultation: the economy/unemployment, in work poverty, education, health, transport.
The commission includes representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors, including the University of Birmingham and Barnardo’s.
It will gather the views of representatives from all of those sectors including people who work with children, health experts, politicians, business representatives, faith groups and academics. But above all, it wants to hear from families and young people.
Anyone who wants to share their stories or ideas with the commission can contact Suwinder Bains at Birmingham City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org
A series of consultation events, including focus groups, are currently being organised by the commission for the coming months and will be publicised in due course.
The commission aims to publish its report, including recommendations to tackle poverty in Birmingham, early next year.