Birmingham should be a city where every child has the opportunity to fulfil their potential and not let poverty be a barrier to success – that is the ambition of the Birmingham Child Poverty Commission’s report launched today (June 30).
The report provides a series of recommendations aimed at reducing child poverty in Birmingham and focusing upon the drivers of poverty including the economy, unemployment, low wages, education and health. The report also explores the circumstances that create poverty and the impact it can have on families.
The independent Commission established by Birmingham City Council and chaired by Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of national charity The Children’s Society, included experts from the public, private and voluntary sectors, including the University of Birmingham and Barnardo’s who all have a part to play in preventing children growing up in poverty. The Commission set out to look at ways to tackle child poverty in Birmingham and ensure all children have access to opportunities that will help improve their life chances.
According to official figures, more than 100,000 children in Birmingham (37%) live in poverty after housing costs have been taken into account. This is the third highest rate in the country.
The Commission gathered views from across the city including people who work with children and families, health experts, business representatives and faith groups but most crucially spent most of their time listening to the real-life experiences of more than 200 parents and more than 600 children and young people from low-income families.
Representatives from the Commission listened to and recorded the views of those who were willing to share their experiences and sought to understand poverty from their perspective, bringing to life the stories of children and families behind the hard statistics.
A survey of 200 Birmingham parents, carried out for the report, found:
- Parents living in poverty in the city are more pessimistic about their children’s future, with over half believing their children will have a worse life than their own. By contrast only 30% of wealthier parents feel this way
- Children in poverty are four times more likely to miss out on a meal during school hours than their classmates who are not in poverty
- Children living in families in poverty are almost twice as likely to miss out on school trips during term time.
The report makes 24 recommendations which the Commission will be asking the City Council and partner organisations to adopt and commit to delivering. The recommendations, which will go to a meeting of the full Council on 12 July 2016 for endorsement, are focussed around raising aspirations, breaking the cycle of poverty, sharing responsibility and mitigating the impact of existing poverty. The recommendations include:
- By July 2017, all schools should adapt their uniform policy to ensure affordability
- By January 2019, Birmingham City Council should work with local businesses to make the city the first ‘Living Wage City’ where all employers pay the minimum amount
- By January 2018, there should be a planning restriction in place preventing new fast food outlets within 250 metres of schools
- By April 2017, Birmingham City Council should exempt care leavers from paying Council Tax up to and including the age of 25
- By April 2017, Birmingham City Council should explore subsidised transport for young people within city localities
- By September 2017, a mentoring scheme should be set up so local businesses can help raise aspirations and provide advice and support for 15 and 16-year-olds living in low-income families.
Matthew Reed, Chairman of the Birmingham Child Poverty Commission and Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:
“Any child living in poverty is one too many, but the scale of child poverty in Birmingham, with nearly four in ten children living in poverty, is truly shocking. Our research has shown that as well as affecting children’s immediate well-being and happiness, growing up in poverty can also damage their long-term aspirations and life chances.
“Commissioners have listened carefully to children and families, as well as community groups, schools, employers and people involved in areas like health and housing which are linked to poverty.
“These conversations have helped us to develop a series of recommendations which, although ambitious, we believe are achievable with the support of the city council and other people and organisations, including across the public, private and voluntary sectors.
“While there is no silver bullet which will end a complex deep-rooted issue like child poverty overnight, we believe these proposals have the potential to make a real difference to the lives of children, young people and families in the city. It is in everyone’s interest in Birmingham that we do all we can end child poverty across the city.”
Councillor John Clancy, Leader of the Council said: “Every child matters in Birmingham and no child growing up in this city should have their childhood or future life chances scarred by living in poverty.
“Tackling child poverty is one of the key priorities as we work to create a fairer city and the Child Poverty Commission was set up to remove some of the barriers which lead to poverty and inequality.
“This is a young, diverse city and our children deserve the best possible start in life. We’ve made our ambitions and priorities clear in setting up this Commission and we will now work with partners to increase prosperity and aspiration for all young people in Birmingham.”
- The full commission report and recommendations is available at https://brumchildpoverty.wordpress.com/
- The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs local services, helping children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable, and have nowhere left to turn. We also campaign for changes to laws affecting children and young people, to stop the mistakes of the past being repeated in the future. Our supporters around the country fund our services and join our campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side.