Agenda item

Scrutiny Inquiry - Combating Child Poverty and Raising Aspirations

To receive and consider a report from the Head of Scrutiny and Member Development presenting evidence in line with Session 1 of the Board’s Inquiry into Combating Child Poverty and Raising Aspirations.


The Head of Scrutiny and Member Development submitted a report which introduced the evidence to be considered as part of the first formal session of the Board’s Inquiry into Combating Child Poverty and Raising Aspirations.


The following information was appended to the report for Members’ information:


-  A copy of the agreed terms of reference for the inquiry

-  background information in relation to combating child poverty and raising aspirations

-  briefing paper on the key implications of the Child Poverty Act

-  pyramid of factors that impact upon child poverty

-  detailed summary of the findings of the review entitled ‘The Foundation Years: preventing poor children becoming poor adults’

-  common risk factors for children, young people and families at risk of poor outcomes

-  draft Leeds’ child poverty needs assessment.


The Chair welcomed to the meeting the following Executive Members and officers to present the report and respond to Members’ questions and comments:


-  Councillor Blake, Executive Member (Children’s Services)

-  Councillor Dowson, Executive Member (Learning)

-  Sally Threlfall, Chief Officer – Early Years and Integrated Youth Support Services, Children’s Services

-  Jane Hopkins, Service Manager – Jobs and Skills Service, Environment and Neighbourhoods

-  Diana Towler, External Relations Manager, Jobcentre Plus

-  Liz Bailey, Health and Wellbeing Improvement Manager, Adult Social Care

-  Rob McCartney, Housing Strategy and Commissioning Manager, Environment and Neighbourhoods

-  Dave Roberts, Senior Policy and Information Officer, City Development.


The Scrutiny Board was provided with a PowerPoint presentation which provided background and contextual information around child poverty, including the significant responsibilities placed on local authorities. 


The remainder of the presentation focused on four specific building blocks, as follows:


Education, Health and Family


  • Current level of teenage pregnancies in Leeds approximately 800 per year.
  • 12% increase in 0-1 age group linked to growth in manufacturing sector and migration from across the EU.
  • Issues relating to adult dependency on drugs and alcohol and impact on children and families.
  • Issues around widening of attainment gap and emphasis on early interventions and narrowing the gap – further data and information to be provided.
  • Development of integrated approach across key agencies.
  • Support for vulnerable families and development of the think family approach.
  • The effect of changes in the family on child stability, e.g. housing, introduction of a new partner, etc.
  • The role of academies in supporting young people from deprived backgrounds.


Employment and Adult Skills


  • Levels of worklessness in Leeds – 60,000 people not working in Leeds with 20,000 children living in homes where no-one works.
  • Concern about changes to employment support allowance and disability living allowance.  It was reported that work capability assessments were being undertaken from March / April 2011 – it was expected that 3,000 people in Leeds would be considered fit for work.
  • Greater support needed for those that were unemployed to attend job centres, interviews, etc.


Housing and Neighbourhoods


  • Concern about the lack of Council housing provision and support for individuals who had lived in a Council property for many years.
  • Increasing numbers of people in housing need.
  • The need for more robust monitoring of Council house sales.
  • The role of the Housing Options Service and ALMO’s in providing stable housing.


Financial Support for Families


  • Potential for reduced availability of support services / advice to local communities .
  • Concern about the poor take up of free school meals.
  • Rising fuel costs and the impact of fuel poverty on children and  families.


The Scrutiny Board discussed next steps, particularly in terms of developing work in localities, support for families and the role of Area Committees.


The Chair thanked the officers for their attendance and contribution to the Board’s inquiry.


RESOLVED – That the issues raised at the first session of the Inquiry, be noted.


(Councillor W Hyde declared a personal interest in this item as Governor at West Leeds Academy.)


(Councillor James Lewis left the meeting at 11.50 am, Councillor Gettings at 11.55 am, Councillors Coulson and Lamb at 12.12 pm and Ms Cox at 12.25 pm, during the consideration of this item.)


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