7 August 2015

Sheffield City Council is calling on the Government to retain measurable targets for the reduction in child poverty which could be dropped as part of proposed changes.

Almost a third of young children and one in five adults in Sheffield are currently living in poverty.
Earlier this year the council and partners across the city developed a city-wide Tackling Poverty strategy setting out actions to tackle this over the next few years. They include simplifying financial support provided to people in crisis, protecting access to advice services and making sure there are food banks across all areas of the city.

But plans to change The Child Poverty Act 2010 could mean certain measures being dropped, which council leaders say will make it more difficult to fight poverty.

As part of the new Welfare Reform and Work bill, the Government is planning to abolish binding, measurable targets on the reduction of child poverty, say city leaders.

Coun Jackie Drayton, cabinet member for children, young people and families, said: “This will have a serious impact on some of the most vulnerable people in society.

“It’s a scandal that children are still living in poverty both in our city, and nationally. We believe that we should all work together to eliminate child and household poverty.

“The Child Poverty Act 2010 was passed with cross-party support and set out stretching targets to reduce significantly relative, absolute and persistent poverty and material deprivation by 2020. The Act also created the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission to hold government to account and placed legal duties on local authorities, and named partners, including the health service, police, transport, fire and rescue and youth justice, to cooperate to reduce child poverty and mitigate its worst effects.

“Although there are sections of the Welfare Reform and Work Bill which we do welcome – such as apprenticeships and the reporting on Troubled Families, there are also many elements that are deeply troubling in terms of impact on poverty.”

The council has now launched a petition, see: https://www.change.org/p/hm-government-rt-hon-iain-duncan-smith-mp-we-call-on-hm-government-to-retain-measurable-targets-for-the-reduction-of-child-poverty

It calls on the government to amend the proposals set out in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill as follows:

• Include targets against all measures so that government can be held to account for progress and we are all clear about the amount of change that is needed and by when it is needed
• Retain the four income related measures (and the additional severe poverty measure set out in the national child poverty strategy) in addition to any new measures
• Ensure that families who are working and in poverty are included in the measures used
• Retain the legal duties for local authorities and named partners to cooperate to reduce and mitigate child poverty
• Retain the word ‘poverty’ in the name of the Act
• Ensure that there is sufficient time to debate and propose amendments to the elements of the Bill relating to changes to the Child Poverty Act as well as the other changes contained within the Bill

The council currently has a statutory duty to produce a child poverty strategy and undertake a child poverty needs assessment. In Sheffield the council and its partners are looking wider to focus on tackling poverty affecting all families and households, including those without children.

The Tackling Poverty Partnership Group, chaired by Reverend Peter Bradley, Dean of Sheffield Cathedral and Sheffield Executive Board’s lead on poverty and inclusion, has in partnership with the council developed a Tackling Poverty Strategy. This includes an action plan which is a living document and will be built on with further actions as additional needs emerge.

The Very Reverend Peter Bradley, The Dean of Sheffield and Sheffield Executive Board’s lead on poverty and inclusion said: “Anyone living in poverty in Sheffield faces many daunting problems and this is especially true for children. We must not stop fighting poverty and I believe we need to stand together to prevent anything which may undermine any work in this area. Our Tackling Poverty Strategy is a very important start in what will be a long process to develop the necessary actions to reduce poverty and alleviate the challenges that many of our fellow citizens face every day, but we need to make sure this is still deliverable by making sure measures are still in place to tackle it.”