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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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: childpovertycommission@birmingham.gov.uk or Twitter @fairbrum

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

 

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.

Progress on the Living Wage in Birmingham

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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