Agenda item

Progress Update - Scrutiny Review of Child Poverty


Consideration was given to the assessments of progress on the implementation of the recommendations from the Committee’s previously completed review of Child Poverty. This was the second progress update following the Committee’s agreement of the Action Plan in July 2022, with developments in relation to the four outstanding agreed actions noted as follows:

• Recommendation 1 (That a family poverty profile is compiled and updated annually from available data and input from those with lived experience and is used to identify a key priority for targeted action each year; an initial focus being take up of Free School Meals for those eligible and in need): Action considered fully achieved. Multiple strands of progress evident including an increase in places on the Holidays Activities Fund (HAF) Programme, the continuation of the Supporting Families Programme, increased take-up of Free School Meals, and the establishment of the Free School Meal Auto-Enrolment Project Group and the Anti-Poverty Strategy Group.

Referencing the mapping of schools across the region which offer breakfast clubs, Members stressed the importance of children having adequate food prior to the start of the school day.

• Recommendation 2 (That support offered to families in poverty is enhanced through: a) a more integrated and visible offer for families experiencing poverty focusing on information, advice, financial and other support; b) roll-out of Poverty Proofing the School Day across all Stockton Schools; c) establishing a mutual aid / giving scheme, in partnership with Catalyst, to facilitate community giving; d) ensuring an enhanced support offer is available for communities and areas targeted through the Fairer Stockton-on-Tees Framework): Action considered fully achieved. Again, several areas demonstrated progress on this action, including the implementation of ‘The Bread and Butter Thing’ (providing families with cost-effective, healthy food options), the continuation of the Community Spaces (previously Warm Spaces) initiative, and the development of outreach Here to Help events to provide communities with a range of support, referrals and advice. Developments around this recommendation would continue to be picked-up as part of the wider Scrutiny Review of Cost-of-Living Response that was currently being undertaken by the People Select Committee, a piece of work which was also considering progress on the costs of school uniform.


Focusing on the ongoing concerns in relation to school uniform costs, Members expressed disappointment that there was still a need to look at this issue again given the Committee undertook an in-depth review on this very topic in the previous Council term – officers were therefore urged to ensure the findings and recommendations from the Committee’s previous work were not overlooked. Assurance was subsequently given that momentum around the school uniform agenda was still being maintained off the back of the Committee’s past review.

• Recommendation 4 (That, subject to funding, a direct payments scheme is developed for those identified as in need, building on the examples of vouchers during the pandemic): Action considered fully achieved. Currently exploring auto-enrolment options for Free School Meals with the support of members from the North East Child Poverty Commission.

• Recommendation 5 (That all subsidy policies are reviewed and revised as appropriate to provide streamlined and enhanced support for families): Action considered fully achieved. Working in-line with SBC ‘Powering Our Future’ and ‘ABCD’ initiatives to support communities and gather information through those with lived experience, findings will be fed through the Anti-Poverty Strategy Group and be shared with the Child Poverty Project Group which meets every six weeks.

The Committee noted the multiple elements which had either been achieved or were ongoing around the issue of child poverty (even in the face of limited resources) which, in cumulation, contributed to providing significant and much-needed help to a number of the Borough’s residents and their families.

AGREED that the Child Poverty progress update be noted and the originally agreed Action Plan be signed-off as complete (no further updates required).

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