It is estimated that around 3.5 million - over a quarter of all children - currently live below the poverty line in the UK. Children growing up in low-income households are more likely to die at birth or in infancy, are more likely to under-achieve at school and are almost twice as likely to live in bad housing. This experience during childhood damages children’s well-being, development and future life chances.
What do we know?
The Child Poverty Act 2010 defines child poverty as follows:
“A child is taken to be living in poverty if the child experiences socio-economic disadvantage.”
By ‘socio-economic disadvantage’ the government means ‘lacking parental resources and/or opportunities to participate in meaningful activities, services and relationships’. In reality this means for example missing out on school trips, socialising with friends, days out and family holidays.
Translating this into terms that can be measured, child poverty can be summarised as a child living in a household that has less than 60% of the national median income. In money terms this is a household income of £16,000 per annum (2010 figures). In Bracknell Forest 60% of the median income equates to an income of just over £18,000.
11.9% of 0-16 year olds in Bracknell Forest are living in poverty compared to a national average of 20.6% and a South East average of 15.2%. Six wards in the Borough have child poverty rates above the South East average.
A report published by the national Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) in July 2013 calculated local estimates of the cost of child poverty for every local authority. These costs were based on the increased amounts spent on dealing with the consequences of child poverty (social services, housing services, healthcare and benefits) as well as lost tax revenue from people earning less as a result of growing up in poverty. The cost for each child living below the poverty line was estimated to be just over £10,800 annually.
On this basis CPAG estimated there were 3,528 children in poverty in Bracknell Forest resulting in a total annual cost of child poverty of £38 million.
National & local Srategies (current best practices)
Under the requirements of the Child Poverty Act 2010, Bracknell Forest Local Authority and its partner agencies are required to cooperate to mitigate the effects of child poverty in the local area. This is to be done within the context of a national strategy to meet targets set out in the Act by 2020.
The National Strategy was published in April 2011 based on the following principles, which aim to:
- Promote work as the best route out of poverty
- Support family relationships and family life
- Facilitate early intervention and prevention
- Promote excellence in delivery, working with partners to ensure that ending child poverty is everyone’s business
- Ensure the sustainability, cost effectiveness and affordability of the strategy.
Locally in Bracknell Forest a number of initiatives are underway to address poverty and the impact this has on outcomes for children and young people.
- The Family Focus Initiative (known nationally as Troubled Families) works with specific vulnerable families with worklessness as one of the key priorities.
- Working with Job Centre Plus, Children’s Centres are increasingly active in supporting adults back into work with job clubs and training.
- In schools the Pupil Premium is used to provide extra resource and financial support for disadvantaged pupils.
- From September 2013 the government is providing funding for disadvantaged two year olds to enable them to attend pre-school provision and the parent to seek work. This funding will be extended to a wider group of families in 2014.
- A Credit Union is being rolled out by the Council in partnership with Bracknell Forest Homes.
What is this telling us?
Whilst there has been a lot of progress, the general economic climate and government tax and benefit changes continue to have an impact on children in low-income families.
What are the key inequalities?
In and around Bracknell town services are more accessible whereas families living in outlying areas could be at a disadvantage due to lack of public transport and the cost of it.
What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?
Although contact has been made with 92% of eligible families in Bracknell Forest, there may be a proportion of families of whom we are unaware. Also a small proportion of parents choose not to engage with the support offered.
The capacity of Local Authorities to help low-income families is coming under increasing pressure in the current climate of limited resources and funding cuts.