Birmingham Child Poverty Commission Report Launched

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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

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No Recourse to Public Funding – Zambrano Families

Homeless in underpass_David Holt

Recently a focused discussion was held in Birmingham on the issues of families with No Recourse to Public Funding (NRPF) in particular Zambrano* families.

Keen to share the experience of these families accessing support in Birmingham and the Black Country, the jointly organised event by Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) and Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team ASIRT brought together a number of public and third sector agencies to look how they can work together to improve policy and practice.

Chaired by Jess Phillips MP, the round-table discussion’s purpose was to:

  • understand the current approach to policy and procedures of Birmingham and Black Country local authorities of their statutory duty to provide support for the child of Zambrano carers who are UK citizens
  • raise awareness of the treatment of Zambrano carers and their children who have no recourse to public funds
  • to share better practice and identify where improvements can be made in the support and treatment of these families

Presentations were also given by:

Delegates also heard personal accounts via podcast: https://youtu.be/FDq2PnpdQtA and video: https://youtu.be/ZJxVrmcp7Bk to highlight the difficulties that some families have had, including two case studies of Hear Our Voice Case Study 1-1 and Hear Our Voice Case Study 2-1.

After contributing to the discussions many of the delegates indicated that they would continue to show support and make changes in the following ways:

Leeds University and Birmingham Community Law Centre were keen to establish a small working group to look at how data on families with NRPF can be accessed or provided to give a more accurate picture.

Greater Birmingham Advice Service indicated an interest in undertaking a mapping exercise to identify the referral, assessment and support pathway for Zambrano families in Birmingham with a similar interest by Birmingham Child Poverty Commission in identifying a collaborative pathway to support families with NRPF.

There was also an interest by several participants in looking at how an equalities and human rights impact assessment might be used to challenge the amendment in the Immigration Bill that impacts adversely on the rights of Zambrano carers.

In addition, British Association of Social Workers were interested in exploring how CPD can be used to improve understanding and knowledge of social workers in the rights and entitlements of Zambrano families.

 

Guardian headline

Here is an example of how only last week, The Guardian shared a story of Maria in an article Raped, pregnant, homeless: the grim reality of life as an asylum seeker

Having faced persecution in her homeland, Maria came to the UK looking for a new safer future. Only find that the reality is being trapped in a complex legal system that wants her to leave the UK, and during her failed asylum claims she sleeps rough in public places as she doesn’t have access to basic accommodation or funds, Section 4 (1).

However, one ill-fortuned night in 2015, the offer of shelter leads to her being drugged, raped and becoming pregnant.  With limited support from friends and charities, and at 34 weeks pregnant Maria still has no accommodation even after continued efforts to providing additional evidence to the Home Office, she is still sleeping on the streets waiting for her baby to arrive.

The awful part of this is that Maria is not alone in her ongoing battle with the Home Office which often takes years for a decision, but she has the struggle of with living with the life changing effects of being raped too.

So what happens now? The mother is not British citizen and the imminent arrival of a child with no clarity around its own legal status?

Do you have any thoughts or views you would like to share on this issue? Why not contact the Birmingham Child Poverty Commission by emailing: childpovertycommission@birmingham.gov.uk

Notes

*The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruling on the case of Zambrano (C-34/09) provided that a non-European Economic Area (EEA) national who had been living and working in Belgium without a work permit, had a right to reside and to work so that his Belgian national children were not forced to leave the European Union (EU) and prevented from exercising their rights as EU citizens. Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/220217/eia-zambrano-right-to-reside-and-work.pdf

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

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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

Email: childpovertycommission@birmingham.gov.uk

 

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: childpovertycommission@birmingham.gov.uk

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

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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: childpovertycommission@birmingham.gov.uk

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.

Almost half all Birmingham children live in England’s poorest areas, commission report shows

Families are being urged to join the fight against child poverty in Birmingham as a report today revealed that nearly haChild Poverty After Housing Costslf 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. (2)

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 childpovertycommission@birmingham.gov.uk

People also encouraged to contact and follow the commission on Twitter using its @FairBrum handle and the hashtag #brumchildpoverty.You can also visit its website at brumchildpoverty.wordpress.com

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.