Agenda item

Leeds Child Poverty Strategy - Update

To receive a report from the Director of Children and Families that presents an update on Thriving: The Child Poverty Strategy for Leeds and the work that sits underneath the strategy.


The Board considered a report from the Director of Children and Families that presented an update on Thriving: The Child Poverty Strategy for Leeds and the work that sits underneath the strategy.


In attendance for this item were:


·  Councillor Fiona Venner, Executive Member for Children’s Social Care and Health Partnerships

·  Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Executive Member for Economy, Culture, and Education

·  Julie Longworth, Director of Children & Families

·  Farrah Khan, Deputy Director – Social Care

·  Julie Devonald, Head of Service Workforce Development & Change


The Executive Member for Children’s Social Care and Health Partnerships introduced the report highlighting some key issues. These included; comments made by the Rowntree Foundation on the increase in destitution which relates to people who are unable to meet their basic needs and the importance of not normalising the issues that this raises such as the use of food banks; mortality rates and the links to increased child poverty; the refresh of the Child Poverty Strategy and the consultation that has taken place with children and young people on this, noting that it can be difficult to discuss this issue due to the stigma attached to poverty and the worries that children and young people experience as a result of poverty; housing issues and evictions from private sector landlords and the links to child poverty and housing as a health issue particularly respiratory health linked to damp and mould. The Executive Member added that there is now an additional focus on breast-feeding in the strategy due to the lowest rates being found in areas of highest deprivation, this is from both a health perspective and economic perspective in terms of the cost of baby formula.


The Head of Service Workforce Development & Change added some further introductory remarks focussing on; statistics and the fact that they were collected prior to the emergence of the cost of living crisis and that they reflect a ‘moment in time’ as opposed to an indication of trend; the impact of poverty on children and families at school in terms of material deprivation, mortality and destitution, overcrowding in housing, the North-South divide and the Leeds approach to child poverty being delivered through the thriving strategy and its seven work streams.


In response to questions and comments from Board members the following areas were discussed:


·  Members asked about child deaths in areas of deprivation and whether there was any further analysis as to the causes or whether any statistics were available. In response the Board heard that this has been raised with the lead officer for children’s public health and the key causes are overcrowded housing and co-sleeping, poor housing condition generally linked to damp and mould, particularly in the private sector and poor maternal health. It was noted that co-sleeping is a key concern and is now part of public health messaging. The Board noted that Zarach (who provide beds to tackle child poverty and co-sleeping) have recently been invited to sit on the Child Poverty Board. The Board asked for more details to be provided to include statistics linked to child mortality and whether the causes can be broken down with analysis provided to assist with tackling the identified key causes.

·  Members welcomed the impact being made by the Healthy Holidays Programme with positive benefits on transition between primary and secondary schools evidenced. It was further noted that the experiences delivered through the programme are hugely beneficial to those that participate who are often the most vulnerable. The Board linked this to past consideration of attendance issues by the Board and wanted to know if there was more information on the impact on attendance and attainment delivered through the programme in the future, if available. The Executive Member added that the Healthy Holidays programme has a moral imperative and one of the key issues raised through the programme has been access to food and there are established links between learning and hunger in terms of children learning more effectively having eaten.

·  Members were supportive of the Healthy Holidays Programme and the quality of provision provided. Concerns were raised that the grant that funds may be ended in 2024.

·  The Board also emphasised the impact that overcrowding in housing can have on learning. The Board heard that increased joint working between housing and children and families has led to some initial proposals on developing an Accommodation Strategy on a city wide basis. This will focus on a strategy for 16 and 17 year olds who are homeless, those with no recourse to public funds and families facing eviction. This will develop an integrated response to people in those situations, led by a cross-directorate steering group.

·  The Director of Children and Families highlighted the links between poverty and increased rates of neglect and those at risk of abuse. In Leeds there has been an increase in the number of super output areas with the highest deprivation. In these areas there has been an increase in the number of children looked after, 20% of children entering care in Leeds live in the highest 1% in terms of deprivation nationally.

·  The Board raised a query on the Household Support Fund and the uncertainty about that funding in the future, given the uncertainty there was a concern about the impact this might have on families in the city. In terms of an assessment of this possible impact the Board noted that this will need to be directed at the Financial Inclusion Team who have responsibility for the grant. The Board also heard that the withdrawal of that funding will have an impact on the work being done through the strategy, 18,000 households have received support in Leeds through the Household Support Grant with 75% of those having children.

·  The Board referenced the Money Information Centre and whether the resources provided as hard copy can be provided digitally to schools. This was welcomed by officers as a possible future development.




The Board:


a)  noted the ongoing strategic framework in place to mitigate the impact of child poverty, and the work being undertaken by the council and other partners in the key areas of activity.

b)  acknowledged the need to promote the work of the Child Poverty strategy across the city and across council directorates and through wider city partnerships in order to highlight the impact of poverty on children and their families.

c)  noted that the responsible officer for the strategy is the Deputy Director, Social Care, Children and Families.



Supporting documents: