Poverty can be defined and measured in various ways.
The Child Poverty Act 2010 outlines several different measures of poverty but the most commonly used proxy measure at a local level is the proportion of children living in families in receipt of out of work benefits or in receipt of tax credits where their reported income is less than 60 per cent of median income, equivalised by household type (i.e. relative poverty).
In order to calculate this, a household’s income, adjusted for family size, is compared to median income (the median is the “middle” income: half of people have more than the median and half have less). Those with less than 60 per cent of median income are classified as poor.
Using this definition, a family with two adults and two children under 13, after housing costs (AHC) have been deducted, need to have £317 a week to be above the poverty line (Source: Bardardos). Many families living on a low income have only about £12 per person a day to live on. From this a family needs to cover:
In 2011, average weekly spending for:
That is less than half of what an average coupled family spends.
There are also big differences in crucial items of spending, such as health and transport:
For many children living in Slough this can mean growing up in a household where their standard of living is well below what is considered acceptable by most people in Britain today.
Living in these conditions can impact on a child’s educational attainment, health and safety and could, if left unchecked, result in many of them suffering from an inequality of opportunity, hardship, deprivation and exclusion. Children living in poverty are more likely to suffer a number of adverse health and social outcomes including poor nutrition and shorter life expectancy.
It should also be noted that low income is just one indicator of poverty: a fuller picture looks at all of a family’s resources, not simply their income. This can include access to decent housing, community amenities and social networks, and assets, i.e. what people own. Somebody who lacks these resources can also be said to be living in poverty in a wider sense. There is also no one factor controlling child poverty, nor one factor resulting from it – the relationships are far more complex.
Different communities are likely to have different needs depending on the extent and concentration of child poverty – which means that any effective approach to tackling this issue must involve the co-operation and collaboration of a number of different services and partners, working together to tackle the multiple causes of child poverty at a local level.
There are a number of at risk groups who are particularly vulnerable to child poverty and the negative outcomes associated with it: These include:
(Source: Child Poverty Action Group)
Children eligible for free school meals are often at greater risk of poor educational attainment: Closing the gap (i.e. improving the progress of and outcomes for children and young people who are most at risk of under achievement) needs to be a strong and recurring theme that runs throughout all of the work undertaken to improve children and young people's life chances.
Poverty can also have a direct impact on the protective factors that help keep children and young people safe: our approach to tackling this issue needs to reduce children and young people’s vulnerability to neglect, exploitation and a range of other factors that can compromise their wellbeing.
Intergenerational poverty is also a strong feature of some wards and communities: disrupting this will be difficult but represents the most cost effective, sustainable and effective means of tackling child poverty in Slough.
Living in poverty also reduces the options available to families and restricts their life chances: services must therefore work together to help families achieve their goals without creating future dependencies.
Child poverty and life chances cannot be viewed in isolation from the wider family: the importance of the family must be fully reflected in any approach taken to deal with this issue.
A local Child Poverty Needs Assessment (carried out in liaison with statutory partners and service areas during the spring and summer of 2014) found that:
The number of working families experiencing child poverty in on the increase: This is because there is a strong link between access to good quality employment and child poverty (whether this is through unemployment or low wages) and a clear gap between the skills of local people and the jobs available in the local area. This places some families at a considerable disadvantage and has real implications in terms of levels of economic activity and worklessness locally.
The Child Poverty Act 2010 states that compelling action needs to be taken at local and national level to meet the target of eradicating child poverty by 2020.
The Act requires government to publish a national Child Poverty Strategy (which was published on the 1st April 2011). It also requires local authorities and their partners to co-operate to tackle child poverty in their local areas; including the duty to publish local child poverty needs assessment and a child poverty strategy for their area.
Slough’s Child Poverty Strategy sets out a vision for what needs to be achieved in relation to a number of key priorities to effectively tackle child poverty at a local level.
It sets out 5 key priorities to reduce the number of children living in poverty and improve the life chances of our children and young people over the next three years:
It recognises the policy levers that council services and partners have available in Slough and commits these organisations and agencies to using them to maximum effect.
It will (through its action plan) co-ordinate the approach and activities undertaken by services and partners to reduce and mitigate the effects of child poverty and deliver on a set of locally agreed outcomes.
It will also ensure that all of the council’s and partner’s (future) strategies, plans and programmes link together to provide a consistent, co-ordinated and ongoing approach for our most disadvantaged families, so that resources are targeted at those children and young people (and their families) most at risk of living in poverty effectively.
Slough’s Child Poverty Needs Assessment shows that some groups and communities have a much greater likelihood of being in poverty and could face a combination of challenges across a number of issues, therefore increasing the likelihood of their experiencing intergenerational poverty.
This means that any effective approach to tackling child poverty locally will
require a long term, truly collaborative and committed multi-agency approach as the implementation of a number of actions and initiatives, by a variety of different council services, partners and agencies, including the borough’s voluntary and private sectors
The borough’s Child Poverty Strategy provides a common framework, a shared sense of purpose and a clear direction for those looking to co-operate when tackling child poverty locally.
As highlighted above, child poverty is a significant contributor to health inequalities.
An action plan to achieve the strategy’s outcomes (measured by a set of specific performance indicators) is being developed by the Early Help Sub Group (in collaboration with individual service areas and partners) of the borough’s Children and Young People’s Partnership Board (CYPPB).
Key strategic themes include understanding the needs of local parents and children, delivering universal and targeted interventions, facilitating routes out of poverty and developing local partnerships to help address the issues identified.