Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Brent Council seeks views on tackling child poverty

The high number of children in  most deprived wards
Click image to enlarge

Brent Council yesterday launched a consultation on its draft child poverty strategy. The Government requires each local authority to have such a strategy in place in 2011. The Council is keen to have feedback on any gaps in  the information they provide which will enable them to refine the final strategy. The consultation is aimed at council staff, community groups and young people.

Some key facts:
  • Brent has become more deprived. It was the 35th most deprived borough in 2010 compared with 53rd previously.
  • The highest rates of child poverty are in Stonebridge ward, Harlesden and South Kilburn. There are pockets of deprivation in other parts of the borough including in the south of Welsh Harp ward which was not deemed as deprived four years ago.
  • Overall there  are up to 23,000 children (34.1%) in Brent living in poverty according the the Child Wellbeing Index.
  • The numbers of children eligible for Free School Meals is a good indicator of poverty. The national average is 15.9% but Stonebridge 44.2%, Harlesden 38.7%, Dollis Hill 33.4%, Kilburn 33.2%, Dudden Hill 31% were much higher compared with Kenton at 11.6%.
  • 72% of homeless cases have children or are pregnant. (This is likely to get worse when the housing benefit cap is fully implemented early next year). There has been a recent increase in the number of young Somali people who are homeless.
  • There is lower educational attainment in early years and schools compared with London and national averages and lower attainment evident in some Black African and African Caribbean children.
  • The highest number of lone parents is highest in Harlesden (570) and Stonebridge (560) compared with 95 in Northwick Park and 60 in Kenton
  • Unemployment is highest in the most deprived areas with a Brent average of 9.3% compared with 8.7% in London and 7.7% nationally
  • 7.6% of Jobseekers Allowance claimants are 18-24 years old compared with 6.7% in London and 6.9% nationally
  • The Tellus Survey showed that lack of aspiration and fears about future prospects including jobs, further education and money are concerns amongst most young people and parents.
The consultation report says that Brent Council is responding to this situation by:
  • Completing a child poverty needs assessment
  • Drafting a strategy
  • Consulting on the strategy
The Council gives its child poverty vision as:
For no children or young people to be disadvantaged by poverty by 2021 in Brent. Over the next decade we will ensure that each child has the best possible start in life and not be disadvantaged by family circumstance or background by breaking the cycle of deprivation
The problem is of course in achieving this vision against the back of Coalition policies whose overall impact, despite innovations such as the pupil premium, are increasing child poverty through reducing benefits, the housing benefit cap, and reducing the number of public sector jobs. The Council's own scope for initiative is clearly limited by the cuts in local authority funding and some of the cuts and higher charges they have made as a result will also impact on families and educational provision.

Faced with the statistics and the reality of  Coalition policies the objectives outlined in the consultation document  seem well-meaning but lacking in establishing a clear, practical policy direction. 'But how?' keeps coming into your mind:
Our objectives for 2021
1. To provide a safe and secure environment where all children are respected and cared for so that they grow into successful and responsible people.
2. To ensure all children have a happy life and life style to be able to progress and thrive.
3. To provide children with the best possible education in an environment where they can thrive; socially, emotionally, physically and intellectually.  
4. To ensure all children are happy, confident and ambitious capable to aim high and achieve what ever they aspire to.
The officers concerned hope that by establishing an over-arching framework they will enable different Council departments to produce more detailed plans. The consultation will be longer than usual and will involve 15 face to face meetings with various stakeholders covering the full range of provision.

The diagram below shows the framework:

Click on image to enlarge
The consultation itself is qualitative and asks open-ended questions including What are the causes of poverty? and In a ideal world what actions could be take to a. prevent children from living in poverty and b. deal with those who are already in poverty? There are 13 questions in all so whoever writes this up will have an enormous job to do as some of the questions invite mini-essays in response!

The consultation website is HERE and a PDF of the consultation document is HERE
The consultation closes on September 26th and comments should be sent to andrea.lagos@brent.gov.uk

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Possibly by not removing the support structures which are already in place such as youth orientated projects. Suppose that would be too easy though..