Agenda item

Tackling and Preventing Child Poverty (proposed by Cllr Djafari-Marbini)

Labour Group member motion

Child poverty in Oxford is sadly persistent and has been through the decades. In 2019, 29% of children in Oxford lived below the poverty line, approximately 9 children in every class of 30, a horrendously high figure given the city and country’s prosperity. The majority (70% nationally) of these children live in working families where unaffordable housing and low wage poor quality jobs have now combined with the cost of living crisis to make life miserable. The data is even more stark amongst racialised minorities and families living with disabilities.

It is almost impossible to list exhaustively the negative consequences on children of growing up in poverty. Poorer health outcomes, lower educational attainment and earnings, and higher entrapment in the criminal justice system are pervasive themes which resonate into adulthood and cause life-long scarring and stigmatisation. The stigma of poverty is one of many compelling reasons for universal and “cash first” approaches favoured by most local and national experts in the field.

The struggles which accompany not having sufficient resources to engage in society on the same basis as everybody else though are of concern right now, and require an immediate response. In the words of Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Honorary President of Child Poverty Action Group children should be valued and cared for as “beings” rather than “becomings”.

It is striking that in the discourse around poverty the voice of children and families living in poverty is often missing. There are some notable exceptions to this which reveal devastating testimony such as “Poverty feels like a tangled web that you can never escape” (ATD Fourth World - Oxford University) and: “makes me feel sad when mum says we haven’t got much money but I’m OK with it and have to support my mum” (Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission).

Despite the national constraints, our Council has taken a number of positive steps over many years to tackle inequalities in the city without which the situation would have been much worse. These include an ambitious housing strategy, a comprehensive Council Tax Reduction scheme and Discretionary Housing Payments, sustained support for the city’s advice centres and work on the Oxford Living Wage.

Council resolves to:

1.    Request that the Head of Corporate Strategy submit a report to Cabinet with options to:

a.    Implement the Socio-economic Duty within all Council policies over the next eighteen months; and

b.    Encourage partnership institutions, including Oxford University, to adopt the Socio-economic Duty.

2.    Request that the Head of Communities submit a report to Cabinet with options to:

a.    Develop a Child Poverty Strategy (noting the work done at the Scrutiny Committee) over the next eighteen months informed by the voices of young people affected.

b.    Implement more immediate actions such as:

                          i.         Donation of devices to Getting Oxfordshire Online

                         ii.         Considering how parents and carers in or at risk of destitution (including those with no recourse to public funds) can access support via "food first” and “cash first” approaches.

Minutes:

Cllr Djafari-Marbini, seconded by Cllr Nala-Hartley, proposed the submitted motion as set out in the agenda and briefing note.

Cllr Smowton, seconded by Cllr Landell-Mills, proposed the amendment as set out in the briefing note.

Cllr Turner stated that he was a Council-appointed representative on the Rose Hill and Donington Advice Centre. This was not a pecuniary interest and he was not required to preclude himself from the debate; he made the declaration for reasons of transparency.

Council debated the motion and amendment.  Following debate, and on being put to the vote, the amendment was not agreed.

Council debated the original motion.  Following debate, and on being put to the vote, the original motion was agreed.

Council resolved to adopt the following motion:

Child poverty in Oxford is sadly persistent and has been through the decades. In 2019, 29% of children in Oxford lived below the poverty line, approximately 9 children in every class of 30, a horrendously high figure given the city and country’s prosperity. The majority (70% nationally) of these children live in working families where unaffordable housing and low wage poor quality jobs have now combined with the cost of living crisis to make life miserable. The data is even more stark amongst racialised minorities and families living with disabilities.

It is almost impossible to list exhaustively the negative consequences on children of growing up in poverty. Poorer health outcomes, lower educational attainment and earnings, and higher entrapment in the criminal justice system are pervasive themes which resonate into adulthood and cause life-long scarring and stigmatisation. The stigma of poverty is one of many compelling reasons for universal and “cash first” approaches favoured by most local and national experts in the field.

The struggles which accompany not having sufficient resources to engage in society on the same basis as everybody else though are of concern right now, and require an immediate response. In the words of Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Honorary President of Child Poverty Action Group children should be valued and cared for as “beings” rather than “becomings”.

It is striking that in the discourse around poverty the voice of children and families living in poverty is often missing. There are some notable exceptions to this which reveal devastating testimony such as “Poverty feels like a tangled web that you can never escape” (ATD Fourth World - Oxford University) and: “makes me feel sad when mum says we haven’t got much money but I’m OK with it and have to support my mum” (Milton Keynes Child Poverty Commission).

Despite the national constraints, our Council has taken a number of positive steps over many years to tackle inequalities in the city without which the situation would have been much worse. These include an ambitious housing strategy, a comprehensive Council Tax Reduction scheme and Discretionary Housing Payments, sustained support for the city’s advice centres and work on the Oxford Living Wage.

Council resolves to:

1.    Request that the Head of Corporate Strategy submit a report to Cabinet with options to:

a.    Implement the Socio-economic Duty within all Council policies over the next eighteen months; and

b.    Encourage partnership institutions, including Oxford University, to adopt the Socio-economic Duty.

2.    Request that the Head of Communities submit a report to Cabinet with options to:

a.    Develop a Child Poverty Strategy (noting the work done at the Scrutiny Committee) over the next eighteen months informed by the voices of young people affected.

b.    Implement more immediate actions such as:

                          i.         Donation of devices to Getting Oxfordshire Online

                         ii.         Considering how parents and carers in or at risk of destitution (including those with no recourse to public funds) can access support via "food first” and “cash first” approaches.