Report of the Child Poverty Review Group
The Scrutiny Committee on 5 October 2021 agreed to establish a Child Poverty Review Group and to appoint Cllr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini as chair.
The Review Group has now concluded its work and has produced a report with 42 recommendations. Cllr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Chair of the Child Poverty Review Group, has been invited to present the report.
The Scrutiny Committee is recommended to approve the report for submission to Cabinet.
Sue Tanner from Oxford and District Action on Child Poverty addressed the meeting. She welcomed the review and the impressive report and commended the Council’s existing policies including but not limited to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, funding for advice centres, the Oxford Living Wage and the Council’s approach to social housing. Sue Tanner drew particular attention to the following recommendations:
- 11 & 12 on the adoption of a socio-economic duty within the next 12 months
- 17 & 18 on holding a poverty truth commission within the next 12 months
- 20 about providing cash support rather than vouchers
- 5 about inflation-proofing the funding provided to advice centres
Cllr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, chair of the child poverty review group, addressed the meeting remotely and introduced the report. She thanked all of the contributors and the Scrutiny Officer and said that poverty is the result of political choice. By way of context, Oxford and Cambridge were the most unequal cities in the country and poverty was getting worse due to the cost of living crisis. £3.9m children were living in poverty in the UK. There were lots of structural issues that contributed to poverty and it was striking that 75% of children in poverty lived in a household where at least one family member was in work. Children should be viewed for who they are in the present, not for their future potential. There was a need to work with partners in a unified way, to hear the voices of those experiencing poverty, to take a cash-first or food-first approach in supporting them and to put this issue right at the top of the political agenda.
The Scrutiny Officer drew the Committee’s attention to some proposed amendments that had been circulated in advance of the meeting including a change to the wording of recommendation 1 to clarify that the good employer charter would be an extension of the Oxford Living Wage, and other typographical amendments and points of clarification. The Committee was recommended to approve the report subject to those amendments and to delegate to the Scrutiny Officer, in consultation with the Chair of the Review Group and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, to make minor amendments to the report prior to its submission to Cabinet.
The Committee welcomed the report and commended the excellent work that had gone into producing it. In discussion the Committee noted that:
- The Council’s work to mitigate poverty during the pandemic was to be commended.
- Experts had advised that a cash/food-first approach was the best way to reduce stigma, and to support those with no recourse to public funds.
- Local Authorities need to be properly funded and given greater powers to tackle poverty.
- In relation to recommendation 36 on the downsides of not being on an electric meter, many tenants in the private rented sector had no choice but to use pre-payment meters and the Council’s interventions in the private rented sector were crucial.
- Food bank usage had increased significantly and there were issues with some models of food bank provision not working for everyone.
The Committee resolved to:
- Thank the Chair and members of the Child Poverty Review Group for their work and report.
- Approve the report for submission to Cabinet subject to the amendment to recommendation 1 and other minor and typographical amendments.
- Delegate to the Scrutiny Officer, in consultation with the Chair of the Review Group and the Chair and Vice Chair of the Scrutiny Committee, to make the necessary amendments and finalise the report for submission to Cabinet.