Birmingham Child Poverty Commission Report Launched


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 on 30 June 2016.

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 report is available here 47.51_ChildPovertyCommission_Report_WEB version FINAL


‘Overlooked’ and ‘Left behind’ young people can lead to poverty

House of LordsToday saw the announcement of a report compiled by the House of Lords Social Mobility Committee: Overlooked and left behind: improving the transition from school to work for the majority of young people

From the outset the report recognises that the transition from school into work is a vital point in the lives of young people. And that making a successful transition through a high quality and valued pathway can mean a successful career or the alternative of becoming trapped in poor quality and under-valued alternatives can lead to a lifetime of poverty.

Emphasis is also given to the fact that not much attention has been given to the young people between two groups; those who progress in Further Education or at the other end of the scale, not in education, employment or training (NEET).

The ‘forgotten’ or ‘overlooked’ group by policy-makers is the largest group of young people. In 2013/14, England’s total population of 16 and 17 year-olds was 1,285,800, only 47 per cent of young people (601,500 people) aged 16 and 17 started A-Levels, whereas 53 per cent (684,300) did not do so.

The report calls for Government to make eight recommendations to support the development of a coherent and navigable transition system for those aged 14–24.

The recommendations request a cohesive system: a core curriculum for those aged 14–19, with tailor made academic or vocational elements, a gold standard in careers advice, and careers education in schools that empowers young people to make good decisions about their future. Underpinning this system, the committee request that reliable and publicly available data is needed that is properly funded, owned by a single Minister, and monitored for success.

It also recognises that there is a growing gap in income between the richest and the poorest and that this gap makes it all the more difficult to access top high earning jobs which command high wages. In addition to negative impacts on individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, OECD analysis suggests that income inequality has a negative and statistically significant impact on medium-term growth

Labour market changes are also called for; it understands that the types of jobs available are very important to social mobility. That with changes to the economy that provide more and better jobs with better pay and more security can have a positive impact.

Many of the ‘overlooked’ group from the middle cohort are often caught in part-time, low-paid, low-skilled and temporary jobs. After leaving school or college they take on are jobs such as kitchen and catering assistants and serving staff in bars and restaurants, as well as roles in sales and customer service. Ways to progress from these roles is often not clear or achievable, meaning that the young people are disadvantaged from those with degrees.

Further in the report it adds, “Children who are exposed to certain factors in their background are more likely to have poor outcomes later in life. Some of these problems of access are exacerbated by ‘opportunity hoarding.’ Parents naturally want their children to have the best chances of a successful life.”

The committee conducted a series of engagement activities gathering evidence including focus groups and surveys.  Some of the young people they heard from told them how their backgrounds had affected them: “When I left School I wasn’t able to complete college courses as there was no fixed home address.”

Ibid, another survey participant was quoted “Due to staying at home to help my mum one occasion, I was stripped of my bursary and so unable to travel to college. It was the only college to offer the course I was on. I wasn’t allowed to sit the end of unit assessments and as such, unable to progress to the next level course. I am now in the situation where I cannot get … funding due to studying a different course. As my options of education have now run out I have been forced to apply for universal credit.

I have been doing unpaid work experience for the past three and a half weeks while waiting the 35 days before I receive any payment. Growing up in a poor family anyway, it has been very difficult to find the means to travel to and from the job centre, so I already owe a lot of money to family members.”


Calls for a clearer policy framework and more effective delivery mechanism

(Recommendation 1)
A need for more coherence in the UK Government’s policy governing the transition of young people into the workplace. The policy should set out a framework for school to work transitions from age 14 to age 19 and over. It should explicitly address the middle route to work, and the decision-making that takes place from 14 onwards, and set the standard for sharing best practice across the UK.

(Recommendation 2)
The transition stage should be considered to be from age 14 to age 19. Learning during this stage should include a core curriculum with tailor-made academic and/or vocational courses. It should aim to get as many people who can, up to a Level 3 qualification. There are three important strands to the framework:

(a) Clearer routes to good-quality work for those in the middle, brought about by local collaboration, to enable .

  • vocational routes to work which are robust and high quality, do not close down future opportunities, and lead to worthwhile destinations. The work of the Sainsbury led review should contribute to this.
  • meaningful experiences of work, organised between the student, the school and a local employer, including work placements and work-based training. Any work experiences undertaken must have a clear aim and objective to prepare young people for work and life.

(b) A new gold standard in independent careers advice and guidance, supported by a robust evidence base and drawing on existing expertise, which moves responsibility away from schools and colleges (which would require legislative change) in order to ensure that students are given independent advice about the different routes and qualifications available, to include:

  • independent, face-to-face, careers advice, which provides good quality, informed advice on more than just academic routes, so that individuals are able to make decisions based on sound knowledge of what is available.
  • a single access point for all information on vocational options, including the labour market returns on qualifications.

(c) Improved careers education in schools, to empower young people to make good choices for themselves to include;

  • information on labour market returns, which would include information about the financial prospects of different options, to inform and motivate young people.
  • data on local labour markets to inform the teaching of Life Skills, skills for life, and careers education.

(Recommendation 3)
This transition framework should be owned by, and be the responsibility of, a Cabinet-level minister, who will assume ultimate responsibility for the transition from school to work for young people.

(Recommendation 4)
Transitions from school to work should be supported by publicly available data, compiled by the relevant Government departments. This data should be made available to researchers so that they have access to earnings data, study patterns, and different demographic patterns, brought about by legislative change if necessary.

(Recommendation 5)
Recommend that the responsible Cabinet Minister should report on progress annually to Parliament.

(Recommendation 6)
Increasingly local labour markets and skills needs are being seen as a devolved responsibility, whether it is to conurbations such as London, Manchester or Leeds, or to rural areas such as Somerset or Lincolnshire. However, because administrative structures are so much in flux, there is often no focal point for action. The most valuable role the Government can take is to act as a facilitator, coordinating the efforts of its existing structures, and brokering collaboration between existing local bodies such as further education colleges, schools, local authorities, local enterprise partnerships and employers.

(Recommendation 7)
The Government should keep under constant review the degree of success of transitions into work for those in the middle. The Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission should play a strong part in monitoring these transitions.

(Recommendation 8)
That the Government should commission a cost benefit analysis of increasing funding for careers education in school and independent careers guidance external to the school in the context of 110 IMPROVING THE TRANSITION FROM SCHOOL TO WORK social mobility. A report providing this analysis should be made to Parliament before the end of its 2016–17 session.

How many low income families can afford their 5-A-day portions?

5 a day

It’s great to see a recent reminder of our 5-A-DAY portions for adults and children by Change4Life, but how many of the families on low incomes in Birmingham can realistically achieve this?

Whether the parents are working or receiving financial support, for many ensuring that their children receive a meal can be a challenge, let alone a balanced diet!

37% of Birmingham children were estimated to be living in poverty after housing costs in the Child Poverty Needs Assessment 2015 based on 2013 figures; which is 12% higher than the national average (25%).

Obviously several fact0rs need to improve at the same time to help families improve the quality of life for our young Birmingham citizens enabling them to have better life chances, such as:

Increase in income

  • Better rates of pay for employees through initiatives like the Living Wage,
  • Fairer equal pay for lone female parents who may be working part time;
  • And effective ways to reduce the impact of the Welfare Reform and Work bill 2015/16 on those receiving benefits.

Individual factors

  • The need to improve cooking skills and knowledge, plus understanding the nutriental benefits of fresh and varied foods.
  • There may even be a lack of storage due to not being able to afford a fridge or even living in temporary accommodation with limited facilities.

Accessibility and affordability

  • Families need to be able to access local affordable shops that have a range of good quality fresh food,
  • Improved transport links, such as affordable public services,
  • Also, parents are physically well enough to make the shopping trips themselves,
  • And food producers need to make sure that goods are at a fair price. Food Statistics Pocket 2015, on page 24 it states that all food groups rose during 2007  -2015 from between 22-42%!

Why not share your views on what else needs to change to give the young people a great healthy start in achieving their potential. Why not contact us : or Twitter @fairbrum



Better transport links and community design can help reduce child poverty

Bristol transport coverWe all know that where we live, affects how we live. Humans tend to be creatures of habit and looking for the easier way. So if we live in a built up area, wide open spaces can seem like a million miles away and we never venture from the concrete jungle, and for some people in the outskirts of a city they may never actually travel to the city centre.

So obviously how our towns and cities are designed impacts how we access schools, work and leisure. Therefore, there is a need to enable an individual to improve their life and that of their family with journeys to services that are not hard work, off putting or financially difficult to meet through high cost, time consuming public transport or heavy commutes.

In a collaborative approach “A-Good-Transport-Plan-for-Bristol-2016-PDF” has been launched with an aim to show how getting around Bristol could be cleaner, cheaper and more efficient over the next five to ten years.

Bristol transport objectives

The plan recognises that the current city structure and use doesn’t work for everyone and the document sets out nine objectives to help make the necessary changes to make the city more resilient, sustainable and accessible.

Birmingham, as a city can use Bristol’s transport plan to remind itself and its partners, that there is a need to maintain and retain its focus on transportation, community design and structures and its importance on improving the quality of life for our citizens.

These changes for example can mean that our young people have access to safe, clean open spaces near where they live, instead of unattractive concrete and rubbish littered play areas. And parents have access to good affordable regular public transport, instead of one bus that touches the outskirts of a housing estate every 30 minutes which doesn’t run on time.

There is no quick fix, as change on this scale has to take into account current established settings, other public priorities and of course budgets. Each step though, can go to making a positive impact on the lives and experiences of our children and their families, reducing child poverty and removing the likelihood of future generations living in the same conditions.

Everyone should play their part to make child poverty unacceptable across the city. Anyone who lives or works in Birmingham and wants to share their views can contact email: or Twitter @fairbrum

Is it child’s play: creating an anti-poverty childcare system?


Every parent wants the best start for their child and a recent study published by Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), Creating an anti-poverty childcare system highlights how the current child care system doesn’t focus enough on providing high quality early learning for our children to protect them against the negative effects of poverty.

With a complex system currently looking more like a game of snakes and ladders, what you receive in one hand rapidly slides away in the other, but the losers in this game can be the children in the long term.

Kicking off with “2.3 million children in the UK are living below the Child Poverty Act 2010 relative poverty threshold, representing one-fifth of all children” the Executive Summary high lights how we need to change things.

The report calls for a childcare system which maximises on quality with well-qualified, experienced staff able to identify and respond to children’s needs; a good social mix of children; a proactive approach to supporting home learning; and strong links with early intervention services.

The system also needs to remove the barriers of affordability and access for parents on low incomes, allowing them the flexibility and opportunity to find work in good quality jobs and not just taking a lower paid job that fits with the standard childcare hours.

It is suggested that policy-makers should grasp the opportunity to translate the potential of this system into reality by responding to four key themes:

  • Providing high quality early education and effective early intervention
  • Supporting parents through accessible, flexible childcare
  • Childcare and Universal Credit
  • Childcare subsidy reform and supply-funded childcare

What ever government plans to do, it needs to move now to provide our children with the opportunities to fulfil their potential and create a better society, surely better statistics would be “2.3 million children out of poverty?”

To download the study click here: anti_pov_childcare_full_0 (1)

Do you or your organisation have a view on this study? Why not share your views with the commission?

Tweeter: @fairbrum



Difficulty speaking English increases chances of poverty

A previous study, Poverty across ethnic groups through recession and austerity was produced by Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2015 looked at how ethnicity and poverty are linked. The research examined the impact of the recession which started in 2008 and subsequent austerity measures on different ethnic groups’ economic well-being.

The study:

  • compares economic well-being measures (household income, access to
  • goods and services for achieving a reasonable standard of living, poverty status) of different ethnic groups;
  • investigates for each ethnic group which components of income contributed to these changes;
  • considers whether changes in employment rates among men and women in these groups contributed to these changes;
  • compares persistent poverty across different ethnic groups and identifies factors associated with persistent poverty.

For full details of the study go to: Poverty across ethnic groups through recession and austerity

Do you have personal experience or work with people who are directly impacted by languages barriers that make it difficult to move out of poverty? If so, why not share them with the commission and tell us what would help to improve the situation for you or them?



Study finds quality flexible working could help with child poverty

Publication2Joseph Rowntree Foundation have recently published findings of a study investigating the number of ‘quality’ flexible job vacancies in the UK, which shows how living standards could improve if there were more of these jobs.

New part-time or flexible job vacancies are necessary to enable workless people in low-income households to enter the jobs market on a flexible basis, and for people in low-paid part-time work to progress to new jobs with better pay while retaining their flexibility.

The key findings shown from a summary four page document shows that:

  • Parents, older people and disabled people (the three groups under study) need to earn at least £10.63 an hour to meet minimum income standards. This rate establishes the pay threshold for a ‘quality’ job and equates to a full-time equivalent salary of £19,500 a year.
  • 1.9 million people could benefit from getting a quality flexible job and hold the necessary qualification levels to attain one. Of these, over 1.5 million people are currently in part-time work below the pay rate for a quality job. A further 154,000 people are workless.
  • There are 202,300 well-qualified people in the groups who are living in poverty.
  • Only 6.2 per cent of quality job vacancies are advertised with options to work flexibly. This compares poorly with the high demand for flexible work (47 per cent of the workforce want to work flexibly).
  • There are 8.1 people in poverty for each quality flexible vacancy, of whom 7.4 people are workless. For quality full-time jobs, the demand is only 0.9 workless people per vacancy.
  • An eight-fold increase in the number of flexible job vacancies would be needed, for supply versus demand to match that for quality full-time jobs.

Recommendations for the UK Government

The summary focuses on four main areas of focus, each with recommended approaches.

  1. Help the 202,300 parents, older people and disabled people who are in poverty and could benefit from a quality flexible job
  2. Improve the wider social mobility of the 1.9 million people who are not achieving their full earning potential and could benefit from a quality flexible job
  3. Improve knowledge about flexible working
  4. And Government can also demonstrate leadership as an employer in its own right.

Download Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports:

Summary copy – timewise-flexible-hiring-summary

Full copy – timewise-flexible-hiring-full (1)

Anyone who wants to share their views, ideas and stories with the commission can contact:

People are also encouraged to contact and follow the commission on Twitter using its@FairBrum handle and the hashtag #brumchildpoverty.

The commission aims to publish its report, including recommendations to tackle poverty in Birmingham, early next year.

Aspire and Succeed share their views with the commission


Matthew Reed, Chair of the Birmingham Child Poverty Commission,  met with young people from Aspire and Succeed, based in Lozells to hear their views and thoughts on how they can help the commission with ideas on how to  reduce child poverty in the city.

Around 15 young people between the ages of 17 to 18 years old took part in a focused discussion around two case studies based on, 15 year old Kam and 8 year old Ben whose lives are blighted by poverty. A number of very insightful and passionate points were raised and some of the young people shared their own experiences about the barriers that prevented them and their families accessing opportunities to improve their quality of life.

Some of the common themes and solutions identified by the group were:

  • Housing issues.Kam case study
  • Money management advice and financial support.
  • Raise the living wage.
  • Young people need more access to a range of career opportunities.
  • Provide training for family members out of work by local organisations and businesses.
  • Local communities to help and encourage family members to speak English to increase opportunities and access to services.
  • Provide positive mentoring for young people by school teachers, other family members and local groups

What needs to happen for jobs in this area?

  • Pathway for young people to gain apprenticeship. Training opportunities are not always fit for purpose. Historically there was industry, now there isn’t much. Need to raise awareness of how to go for jobs and stimulate ambition.
  • Area has an unfair negative reputation which employers look at as a reason not to employ us. Stigmatised by our postcode.
  • Better housing for families – stop overcrowding.
  • Training opportunities weren’t considered fit for purpose, as businesses in the area were industrial now they have changed to services.

What could schools do differently?

  • After school clubs are need to help with homework.
  • Providing a free school uniform, stationery.
  • Teachers need to be more encouraging and positive toward all children not just the ‘clever’ ones. “It’s not good for your confidence to be told that you won’t get anywhere or and will get bad exam results”.
  • Expelled pupils are moved to a centre at the other side of the city referred to as journey men, moving from one school to another. This prevents them from building lasting friendships and damages their self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Some young children had their time at school disrupted as they often became translators for family members. Translating ‘adult issues’ causing emotional and stressed.

What shouldn’t be missed… when the group were asked by Matthew, what should be including in the commission recommendations? They responded by saying;

  • Different ways to  earn good money, it creates opportunity to do things, buy the things needed and pay the bills.
  • Something needs to be done to get rid of postcode prejudice and the assumptions made about coming from a ‘trouble’ area.
  • Give young people contacts to access good job opportunities.
  • The commission needs to look at social housing issues as they are impacting families and;
  • A lack of affordable accessible centres and sporting facilitates make it difficult for young people to enjoy physical activities to get healthy and time away from other pressures.
  • All children have dreams to do well in life – no matter what your background or the area you come from.

Anyone who wants to share their stories or ideas with the commission can contact:

People are also encouraged to contact and follow the commission on Twitter using its@FairBrum handle and the hashtag #brumchildpoverty.

The commission aims to publish its report, including recommendations to tackle poverty in Birmingham, early next year.


IMAG0923.1Families are being urged to join the fight against child poverty as a series of public consultation events organised by the Birmingham Child Poverty Commission picks up pace.  On the back of new Office for National Statistics figures which reveal 39.6 per cent of Birmingham’s neighbourhoods were among the most deprived 10% nationally (1), commissioners will on Tuesday visit a local primary school to talk with children about their lives and experiences.

The visit to Future First Independent School in Hockley follows a bus tour of local organisations on Friday including the Amirah Foundation, which supports homeless and vulnerable women and children, the Oasis Academy Foundry Primary School in Winson Green and St Boniface Church in Quinton, which also supports vulnerable families.

The commission, chaired by Matthew Reed, chief executive of national charity The Children’s Society, and established by Birmingham City Council, is looking at ways to tackle child poverty in Birmingham and ensure all children have access to opportunities in life. Its public consultation programme revolves around visits to family fun days and events that community-based organisations are already holding, as well as specially-arranged visits for commissioners.

Representatives from the commission spend time at the events listening and recording the views of those that are willing to share their experiences. The commission 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.

Ahead of the launch of its consultation programme, the commission published a Child Poverty Needs Assessment – based on previous ONS figures – which revealed that almost half of all Birmingham children lived in England’s poorest areas.

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 that 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. (2)

The commission includes representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors, including the University of Birmingham and Barnardo’s, and is focusing upon five themes: the economy/unemployment, in work poverty, education, health and transport.
It is gathering 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.

Matthew Reed, Chairman of the Birmingham Child Poverty Commission and Chief Executive of The Children’s Society, said:

“It is vital that we hear about experiences of poverty from the children and families affected and the community groups and organisations which work with them.

“These events help us to identify both measures which can make a difference in the short-term and changes which will tackle some of the fundamental causes of child poverty in the future.”

Anyone who wants to share their stories or ideas with the commission can contact
People are also encouraged to contact and follow the commission on Twitter using its @FairBrum handle and the hashtag #brumchildpoverty.
The commission aims to publish its report, including recommendations to tackle poverty in Birmingham, early next year.


Notes to Editors
Media opportunity. You are invited to a photo call and opportunity to speak to some of the young people involved in the research on Tuesday 13th October 2015 at 2pm-3.30pm, Future First Independent School, Hockley Port Moorings, All Saints Street, Hockley, Birmingham, B18 7RL. To confirm your attendance, contact either Natasha Bhandal, Communications Manager at Birmingham City Council on 0121 303 8727 or  or Kris Kowalewski on 0121 303 3621
(1) See
(2) Figures were calculated using data from the Index of Multiple Deprivation, census and Office for National Statistics population estimates. Of the 639 Lower Layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in Birmingham, 245 are in the top 10 per cent most deprived nationally. Of the 280,023 children in Birmingham, 136,848 live in these 245 Local Super Output Areas – 49 per cent. LSOAs are small geographic divisions with a population of at least 1,000 which are used to measure indices of deprivation – there is an LSOA for every postcode.
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.

Progress on the Living Wage in Birmingham


The campaign for a Living Wage for workers across the country has been ongoing now for many years. The living wage is increasingly seen as one of the solutions for in-work poverty.  It is based on the amount an individual needs to earn to cover the basic costs of living – estimated to be significantly above current levels for the minimum wage.  Over the past few years the idea has  gained a great deal of traction from across the political spectrum, having been promoted nationally by the Living Wage Foundation.  The current living wage is estimated to be £7.85 an hour for people outside of London, and £9.15 for those living in London.  (For more information on the calculation click here).

The idea of Living Wage has returned to the headlines recently with the Chancellor’s announcement in the recent budget that he would be introducing a National Living Wage of £7.20 and hour for those over 25 from next April.  This will rise to £9.00 by 2020.  While announcement has received mixed reviews from employers, and has gained some cautious welcomes by charitable organisations, although there is some concern that the figures are just higher minimum wages rather than actually at the level of a living wage.

In Birmingham, the City Council has been paying the nationally recognised living wage for sometime now, having first adopted Living Wage for Council employees back in 2012, with the City Council receiving a nomination for the Living Wage Champion Awards 2014.

But what does the living wage look like across the rest of the city?

Earlier this year and before the Chancellor’s announcement,  the Centre for Research in Social Policy  – the body who calculate the living wage outside of London – published a report looking into the Living Wage in Birmingham.  This report –Making ends meet in Birmingham: assessing the impact of the living wage and welfare reform –  has some interesting findings, including:

  • Household incomes reached a peak in 2009 and earnings have not returned to this level yet.
  • Birmingham actually has a smaller proportion of workers below the living wage than nationally
  • Since the adoption of the living wage by Birmingham City Council, the proportion of public sector workers below this level has fallen dramatically to only 2% of workers, compared to 8% nationally.
  • There is a stark contrast between public and private sector workers within the city: 27 %of private sector workers were paid less than the living wage in 2013 compared to 2 % in the public sector.
  • The city has witnessed significant increases in the proportion of workers who are self-employed since 2009: 13% of all those aged 16-64 working in Birmingham in early 2014 were self-employed.

The full report contains more interesting findings – which the Child Poverty Commission will use to in their work.  But what is clear is that the introduction of the living wage has clearly done much to reduce low pay in the public sector, but low pay within the private sector remains a challenge for Birmingham.

Full report here