Tackling child poverty is the focus of a new awareness drive being spearheaded by the City of Edinburgh Council.
A report going to the Education, Children and Families Committee next week (Tuesday 6 October) shows that just over 21% of children in Edinburgh live in poverty and this figure is forecast to increase significantly by 2020.
Every area of the city is affected with each Council ward having child poverty rates of over 10% and it’s estimated that the cost of delivering services to address the impact in the Capital is around £156m a year.
Next week’s Child Poverty report outlines various actions being taken by the Council to lessen the impact.
Key areas identified include:
- Developing more flexible and affordable good quality childcare to meet the needs of families on low incomes
- Improving attendance at schools and early years establishments, and the attainment and achievement of young people
- Reducing the attainment gap between lowest achieving pupils and their peers across the city
- Identifying and developing more safe places to play
Other actions include increasing breakfast club provision, working in partnership with food banks to better understand why families in poverty are using their services and further developing family engagement with a focus on strong home-school partnerships.
A major school project – the ‘1 in 5: Raising Awareness of Child Poverty in Edinburgh’ – has already started in five primaries and one secondary school. It aims to identify best practice and changes that can be introduced to make school more affordable for families on low incomes. The project involves working with children, staff and parents to challenge the stigma that affects children living in poverty.
The report also highlights the importance of income maximisation to raising attainment. Research has shown that the level of household income plays a major role in attainment levels with more initiatives needed to increase wages, encourage take up of unclaimed benefits and other finance-related poverty costs.
Councillor Paul Godzik, Education, Children and Families Convener, said:
Child poverty matters to us all as it damages childhoods, damages life chances and damages society as a whole. Children from poorer backgrounds lag behind at all stages of education so it’s important we do all we can to close the attainment gap.
We have developed a range of actions to challenge and mitigate the impact of child poverty in the Capital and will continue to work closely with our partner agencies to ensure everything is done to ensure children given every opportunity to have the best possible start in life.
Alison Noble, Head Teacher at Sciennes Primary School, is one of the schools taking ‘1 in 5: Raising Awareness of Child Poverty in Edinburgh’ project. She said:
This project provides a valuable opportunity for Sciennes to make a difference and ensure the outcomes for our children are not undermined by poverty and inequality. By taking part we can focus our efforts on addressing the barriers that exist within our community and help us to begin to fulfil one of the objectives in the Scottish Attainment Challenge – to close the attainment gap and provide every child with the same opportunity to succeed.
Our ward includes an area of multiple deprivation so raising awareness of the issues surrounding poverty may contribute to our children making a positive contribution to the school, local and wider community.