The current state of child poverty in the UK

When the Government pledges to make the UK the ‘the most family friendly country in Europe’ it is worrying that we are still near bottom of the OECD league table for child wellbeing,[1] and that 3 children in every 10 across the country are living in poverty (rising to 4 in every 10 in London).[2]

It is equally worrying that according to 4Children’s latest report on child poverty that despite the Child Poverty Act 2010 requiring local government to produce child poverty strategies and needs assessments for their local area, setting out how child poverty will be reduced, over half of all local authorities do not have a fully complete and published strategy in place.

Out of the country’s 10 most deprived boroughs, only 6 have a full child poverty strategy in place. Tower Hamlets inLondon, which has the country’s highest child poverty rate at 52% has no strategy in place. Of those 78 boroughs who do not have a strategy:

– 12 have a draft strategy or an expired strategy available on their website, or have set up a commission to produce a strategy

– 38 have a child poverty needs-assessment in place

– 35 have neither a strategy nor a needs assessment in place.

As the 4Children report points out, “There is also a significant disparity in local authority’s engagement with child poverty, with some areas like the North East displaying a strong and consistent engagement with the issue”. In the North East 83% of local authorities published a strategy and a needs assessment.

There is a clear commitment to reducing child poverty in the North East which has a dedicated regional taskforce for this and is recognised externally as a leader in cooperation and joint working. More information about the North East Child Poverty Commission is available on their website.[3]

In contrast, the 4Children report points out that the South East,East Midlandsand South West make up the bottom three in terms of both child poverty strategies and needs assessments.

4Children has looked at 75 strategies and rated them according to strategic leadership, targeting, accessibility, mapping and partnerships. You can see the full details in their report.[4]

4Children state, “It is clear that while some local authorities have taken a proactive approach to combating child poverty, the majority of councils have not seriously engaged with their legal or moral responsibilities to reduce and eventually eradicate child poverty.” They call for national Government to be more proactive in compelling local government to meet their legal responsibilities.

Severe child poverty

The levels of ‘severe child poverty’ were highlighted by Save the Children’s report earlier this year, Severe Child Poverty: Nationally and locally.[5] A staggering 1.6 million children across theUK live in severe poverty, with over 25% of children in Tower Hamlets inLondon andManchester in severe poverty and yet neither council has a child poverty strategy in place.

Children in severe poverty miss out on things like school trips and hobbies, not reaching their emotional and social development which can leave them excluded from society. Save the Children’s report highlights the main risk factors for severe child poverty, including workless households, single parents, housing tenure, disability, parents being under 25, family size and ethnicity.

Save the Children argues that we should measure the depth of poverty that children and their families experience because not all children living in poverty have the same experience. There is currently no official measure of severe child poverty in theUK.

Save the Children recognises that tackling severe child poverty presents a number of challenges to policy makers but argues that the Government should establish a severe child poverty eradication target as part of the pathway to eradicate child poverty by 2020. It recommends a severe child poverty plan that includes local labour markets, removing barriers to employment, and improved financial support to families in desperate need.

Social Mobility

The Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announced recently that the Government would publish an annual “snapshot” of social mobility, by measuring information such as educational achievement, access to professions and birth weights as part of the work of the child poverty and social mobility commission announced in April last year.

The commission’s remit is to monitor the government and future governments in their attempts to increase social mobility in theUKand reduce child poverty. The commission will report annually to Parliament on the progress that is being made on social mobility and child poverty.

Nick Clegg announced the ‘leading indicators’ of social mobility which will improve our understanding of whether we are moving towards our goal of improving social mobility. This update presents, for the first time, the full set of indicators and the most recent data on progress against them.[6]

The indicators will look at a raft of measures across the life cycle, focusing in particular on early years when a young person’s potential can be damaged because the right support is not in place. As Frank Field stated in his report on child poverty, “It is family background, parental education, good parenting and the opportunities for learning and development in those crucial years that together matter more to children than money, in determining whether their potential is realised in adult life.[7]

The social mobility strategy includes 17 new “indicators” to measure progress annually in narrowing the gap between the well-off and the most disadvantaged.

Indicators:

Foundation years
– Low birth weight, by social background
– Early child development, by social background
– School readiness, by free school meal eligibility
– School readiness by phonics screening check

School years
– School attainment at age 11 by free school meal eligibility
– School attainment at age 16 by free school meal eligibility
– School attainment at age 16, by school area’s level of deprivation

Transition years
– Attainment by age 19, by free school meal eligibility at age 15
– High A-level attainment by age 19, by school type
– Participation in education aged 18 to 24, by social background
– Participation in employment to 18 to 24, by social background
– Progression to higher education by age 19, by free school meal eligibility at age 15
– Progression to higher education in the most selective institutions by age 19, by school type

Adulthood
– Graduate destinations by social background
– Access to the professions by social background
– Progression in the labour market
– Second chances in the labour market (includes access to adult education)
(Source: Cabinet Office)

 

 

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[1] http://www.oecd.org/document/12/0,3746,en_2649_34819_43545036_1_1_1_1,00.html

 [2] 4Children report http://www.4children.org.uk/Resources/Detail/Most-Local-Councils-Failing-to-take-Child-Poverty-Seriously

 [3] http://northeastchildpoverty.wordpress.com/

 [4] http://www.4children.org.uk/Resources/Detail/Most-Local-Councils-Failing-to-take-Child-Poverty-Seriously

[5] Http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/assets/images/Severe_Child_Poverty_Nationally_And_Locally_February2011.pdf

 [6] http://www.dpm.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/resource-library/opening-doors-breaking-barriers-strategy-social-mobility-update-progress-april-2011

 [7] Frank Field, The Foundation Years: preventing poor children becoming poor adults. London,  2010

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Pregnant women and new mothers with depression miss out on early intervention support

A lack of early intervention services for disadvantaged pregnant women and new mothers risks creating another generation of “troubled families”, the charity Family Action has warned in its new report. Against All Odds: Mind the Gap, argues that welfare cuts and poor quality housing is having a negative impact on mothers’ mental health and their ability to bond with their babies.

The key findings of Family Action’s Mind the Gap report highlight:

The Early Intervention Gap: There is a gap in true early intervention services which fulfil the support needs of mothers-to-be and new mothers with mild to moderate depression. The Family Nurse Partnership, and health visitors programme, while important initiatives, will not adequately meet the needs of all this group, while the Troubled Families programme is a much-needed, but is essentially a crisis-level, intervention.

Family finances and welfare reform will have a negative impact on maternal mental health: The worsening of perinatal depression owing to financial pressures is damaging to the mental health of mothers-to-be and new mothers, and their ability to relate to their baby and existing children emotionally.

Cuts happening now mean that it has never been more difficult financially for low-income new parents to provide home and money for themselves and their new baby: Reductions to the welfare support available for new parents have taken place through cuts to specific monies for new parents such as the Sure Start maternity grants, as well as through the more general cuts to welfare which affect households under pressure from a new baby including restrictions to local housing allowance, and recent changes to disregards in the drop in family income for Working Families Tax Credit; as well as the upcoming welfare benefit cap, and Social Fund changes.

Parents with new babies must not be the guinea pigs for universal credit: Massive changes to the welfare system and the introduction of universal credit from are being introduced in 2013. Vulnerable claimants will be on the receiving end of any teething problems with the system. Whilst new claimants will be supported under universal credit the “changes in circumstances” rules means that the birth of a new baby could also see parents with new babies switched to the new benefit system with changes to household income.

The charity wants to see Government explain how it is going to protect the maternal mental health and safe development of new babies of those vulnerable and low income families most likely to bear the brunt of the welfare cuts: black and minority ethnic and migrant families, households with a large number of children and single-mother headed households.

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Children’s Play case study publication

Ecorys on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund has produced a case study publication showcasing some of the projects that received funding from the Children’s Play Programme. The Children’s Play Programme provided £123 million to fund portfolio’s of play activity in 351 local authority areas across England.

The publication focuses on seven themes from the national evaluation of the Children’s Play Programme and aims to support leaning for local authorities, play workers and other partners delivering play opportunities. The themes in the publication are, putting free play into action, developing inclusive play opportunities, engaging children and young people in designing play, taking risks in play, free play in the community, play in a multi-agency context and addressing play deprivation. The publication draws out the impact, lessons learnt and sustainability of each of the themes.

The publication can be viewed at: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/er_cplay_cs.pdf

 

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Social and emotional wellbeing – early years: consultation on the draft guidance

NICE is developing public health  guidance on how the social and emotional wellbeing of vulnerable children aged under 5 years can be effectively supported through home visiting, childcare and early education.

All registered stakeholders for the above public health intervention guidance are invited to comment on the provisional recommendations during an 8 week consultation with stakeholders.

Organisations not registered as stakeholders are not able to comment. Please note that there is time for you to register as a stakeholder. For further information about how your organisation can become a stakeholder, please see the stakeholder registration page.

The consultation closes on 18 June 2012.

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Is Scotland the best place in the world to bring up children?

Parenting across Scotland has published a collection of essays about parenting in Scotland, covering a range of topics including early years, teenage years, separation, mental health, prisons, disability and transitional phases.

“The Scottish Government is committed to introducing a national parenting strategy and making Scotland the best place in the world to bring up children”, says Parenting across Scotland project manager Clare Simpson in her introduction.

“If the government stated its intention to intervene in the economics of the country, to improve the nation’s health, to prevent crime or to educate its young, people would regard these as natural functions of government. And yet, the very mention of a national parenting strategy, is likely to bring with it knee-jerk accusations of ‘nanny state’.

“But supporting families is exactly about all those functions that we generally accept as being the job of government – rebuilding our failing economy, improving our health, preventing crime and educating children. We need to recognise the value of good parenting more and provide more support to parents before they fail rather than picking up the pieces afterwards. It is critical to the future of our country that we do so; beyond this, it is the right thing to do – Scotland’s families deserve no less.”

Download and read the collection (pdf) from Parenting across Scotland.

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Consultation on children and young people’s health outcomes

The Children and Young People’s Health Outcomes Forum is gathering views from children, young people, parents, carers, doctors, nurses and other professionals involved in providing care to children on the health outcomes that matter most for children and young people and how the different parts of the health system will work together to deliver these.

It wants to hear views on four particular areas: acutely ill children, mental health, children with disabilities and long-term conditions, and public health.

The consultation closes on 31 May 2012

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Shadow Children’s Minister attacks coalition’s record on early intervention

Shadow children’s minister Sharon Hodgson has launched a scathing attack on the government’s record on early intervention, saying that slow progress on increasing health visitor numbers and reductions in early years special education needs co-ordinators (SENCOs) must be addressed urgently.

Speaking at the 10th National Sure Start conference, in Manchester, Hodgson questioned the government’s “commitment in investing in early intervention”, citing cuts to the early intervention grant and the removal of ringfences. She also challenged the government’s record on Sure Start.

“One of the things I find most galling about [children’s minister] Sarah Teather, my opposite number, is that she regularly talks about the priority that this government gives to early intervention, including repeated protestations that the government has protected Sure Start,” Hodgson told delegates.

“Everyone here knows that this is utter rubbish. Nearly £1.5bn has been taken out of the early intervention grant over three years – with some of the most deprived areas getting the biggest cuts.

“If that doesn’t demonstrate the government’s commitment to investing in children and early intervention, I’m not sure what does.”

Read the full story on Children & Young People Now.

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Most local authorities failing to take child poverty seriously

Exclusive research by the national family charity, 4Children, reveals most local councils still do not have a child poverty strategy in place. This is despite them having a legal obligation to do so as set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010.

4Children Chief Executive, Anne Longfield OBE, has raised concerns that the near four million children living in poverty in the UK are being let down by their councils. She argued that without high quality poverty strategies the chances of improving these children’s welfare and life-chances is being compromised.

With the number of children living in poverty set to rise, 4Children is calling on local and national government to prioritise child poverty. In her speech to senior local authority officials at 4Children’s annual conference Anne Longfield urged councils to take their legal obligations seriously and build up robust strategies to tackle the severe deprivation and lack of opportunities faced by children living in poverty.

Read the full story on 4Children’s website.

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Troubled families – a new report

According to a new report, children from troubled families are eight times more likely to be suspended or excluded from school than other children, and ten times more likely to be in trouble with the police.

The prime minister pledged that his government should be judged on its success at transforming the lives of 120,000 such families by 2015. But who are these families, and why are they such a problem?

As the dust settled on last summer’s riots, attention shifted from the young people who had been rioting to the families that they had grown up in. The government defines troubled families as those where parents are out of work, children are not in school, and family members are involved in anti-social behaviour and crime. These families often face a range of other problems as well, such as mental and physical ill-health, domestic violence, drug and alcohol addiction, isolation, and relationship breakdowns. Such problems are often long-standing and inter-generational.

These families face personal difficulties and distress, but they also create problems for others in their community, and are very expensive to the taxpayer. It is estimated that the 120,000 most troubled families cost society up to £9bn every year.

NPC’s report shows how private funders can make a difference in this challenging and complex area, and potentially help thousands more families in trouble to lead healthy, happy and productive lives.

Download the full report from the New Philanthropy Capital.

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Queen’s speech: families bill promises flexibility and justice for parents

A new Children and Families bill was announced in the Queen’s speech this week which will set out more flexible leave for parents, father-friendly access arrangements following relationship breakups, faster adoption processes and better help for special needs pupils. The bill also sets out plans to speed up adoption and care proceedings and give more support to disabled children. The bill will create a six-month time limit for family courts in England and Wales to reach decisions on whether children should be taken into care and will require the court to take into account the impact of delays on the child.

The bill will also prevent local authorities in England from delaying adoptions in the hope of finding a perfect racial match for the child, if there are couples waiting to adopt.

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