Monthly Archives: June 2016

Speech: It takes a city to raise a child and to lift a child out of poverty

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My speech at the launch of today’s Child Poverty Commission Report.

I speak today as the Leader of Birmingham City Council but I also speak as a father, as a former teacher and as one of many leaders across this city who must rise to the challenges outlined in this hugely important report.

We must all be clear that 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 that lead to poverty and inequality.

Very easy words of course but I know each of us here today is determined to turn those words into very real action that will address the causes and the consequences of child poverty in Birmingham.

That’s why I see today as one of the most important of my first few months as the leader of Birmingham City Council.

I say this is one of my priorities but what exactly are we talking about when we say child poverty?

A child is living in poverty if they are living in a family left with less than 60% of average income after housing costs.

And poverty can manifest itself in many ways – including struggling to find the money for essentials like eating and heating, as well as things like transport and leisure activities.

Estimates of child poverty for Birmingham show that 37% of our children were living below the poverty line in 2013 after housing costs (AHC).

That means that in some areas of the city, almost 50% of all children are growing up in poverty.  For example: three constituencies in Birmingham have child poverty rates that put them in the top twenty in the UK:

  • Ladywood with 47%
  • Hodge Hill with 43% and
  • Hall Green with 42%.

Sobering and heartbreaking statistics, I’m sure we all agree.

But our children are not statistics and behind those numbers are real children – children with potential, with dreams and aspirations.

Some people will say that it was ever thus and successive generations have tried and failed to address the issue of child poverty.

Well I didn’t get into politics to simply accept such depressing statistics.

I got into politics because I passionately believe that every single child in this city matters and in 2016 – in one of the richest countries in the world – it’s wrong that so many of our children are born into lives of such limited horizons.

It’s unacceptable that one in two children in a Ladywood classroom is living below the poverty line.

Look behind the statistics and you discover that this is not simply an issue of joblessness – it’s far from black and white.

Two-thirds of children living in poverty are living in working households and that’s why tackling in-work poverty must be a priority.

I’m proud to say that Birmingham City Council is a Living Wage organisation and a growing number of our partners and suppliers also now pay the Living Wage. That must become the norm because parents across this city want the best for their children but are all too often struggling to make ends meet.

Growing up in poverty can reduce a child’s ambitions and expectations. For many families poverty is a generational issue. Not only are the children born into poverty, their parents and even grandparents were too and it can be really difficult to escape this cycle.

Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to suffer ill-health, be unemployed or homeless. Sadly they are also more likely to become involved in drug or alcohol abuse and even abusive relationships.

That’s the tragic reality behind those statistics. That’s why we must – as a city and as a nation – rise to this challenge. We must tackle the causes of poverty in Birmingham and we must break a cycle that has seen generations condemned to lives of struggle, debt, ill-health and misery.

It takes a city to raise a child and I believe it takes a city to lift a child out of poverty.

The challenge for our city is to do everything we possibly can to raise the expectations of all our children and we will only succeed if this is a common endeavor.

A number of people have contributed to this important report and many more will play a part in the solution. There’s cross-party support for tackling the issue of child poverty and this is a partnership.

Birmingham City Council will play a part in that team effort but we do not have all the answers. Schools, charities, faith groups, community organisations and others already do great things to tackle poverty and their involvement is more important than ever.

This is a young city – by many measures the youngest in Europe. Just think of all that potential. But potential must be given the opportunity to blossom.

It’s our duty to give all our children the best possible start in life and we’ve made our ambitions and priorities clear in setting up this Commission.

We will now work with partners to address the issues highlighted in this report with a shared aim of increasing the life chances and aspirations of all young people in Birmingham.

Plan to fight child poverty is 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 today (June 30).

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.”

Ends

  1. The full commission report and recommendations is available at https://brumchildpoverty.wordpress.com/
  1. 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.

Birmingham’s new Assistant Leaders named

Four Assistant Leaders have now been appointedto oversee the next phase of devolution in Birmingham.

They are:

  • Cllr Marje Bridle has been Labour member for the Shard End Ward since May 1986.
    She is currently a member of the Corporate Resources and Governance Overview & Scrutiny Committee and Miscellaneous Appeals Sub Committee.
  • Cllr Tony Kennedy has been Labour member for the Sparkbrook Ward since May 2011.
    He is currently a member of the Licensing and Public Protection Committee.
  • Cllr Narinder Kaur Kooner has been Labour member for the Handsworth Wood Ward since May 2006.
    She is currently a member of the Planning Committee.
  • Cllr Ansar Ali Khan has been Labour member for the Washwood Heath Ward since May 2002.
    He is currently a member of the Corporate Resources and Governance Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

This provides an opportunity to develop a genuinely radical agenda for change.

Our ambition is to put Birmingham at the vanguard of reform and new ideas on local governance and community leadership, building on the tremendous diversity and vibrancy of our civil society and its social enterprises, community and voluntary organisations and restoring the reputation for good governance that once
characterised the city.

It is a vision based on the idea of dispersed leadership in which everyone in the city can aspire to make a difference. It is a vision based on a new sense of pride and purpose and the unique character of Birmingham’s public life expressed through innovation, invention and true leadership. It is a vision based on devolution from
central government with new powers to act along with our West Midlands partners but also the empowerment of local communities and individuals in the city.

The Future Council programme and the 2020 Vision discussion paper which went to full council in November, as well as the direction set by the Leader of the Council provide a new context for these changes.

The Cabinet is working on more complete Vision that sets out the administration’s priorities for change in the city and how the City Council will contribute to those in partnership with others. It will also focus on the future role of the council and the key areas where the council itself must change.

This will steer the work of the Cabinet Committee in the area of local devolution and leadership.

Full report to cabinet: https://birmingham.cmis.uk.com/birmingham/Decisions/tabid/67/ctl/ViewCMIS_DecisionDetails/mid/391/Id/3d89feb4-35da-436a-a695-93ba4c81ab37/Default.aspx