Birmingham’s Child Poverty Commission launched its findings and recommendations in an independent report 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 leaders 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 low income households are almost twice as likely to miss out on school trips during term time.
The report makes 24 recommendations which the Commission asking the city council and partner organisations to adopt and commit to delivering. The recommendations are focused around raising aspirations, breaking the cycle of poverty, sharing responsibility and mitigating the impact of existing poverty.
Some of the 24 recommendations include:
- By July 2017, all schools should adapt their uniform policy to ensure affordability
- By January 2018, there should be a planning restriction in place preventing new fast food outlets within 250 meters 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 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.
- By April 2017, Birmingham City Council should adopt a local ‘breathing space’ placing council tax accounts on hold for 21 days when a family gets in touch with them so as to enable the family time to seek independent debt advice. The Council should also adopt an explicit policy of not engaging bailiffs for families in receipt of Council Tax Support.