Cabinet 12/4/2012 Agenda Item 13: Child Poverty: Budget Option

Frank Field MP addressed Wirral Council’s Cabinet asking for all-party support for his proposal. He wanted to set up a free school in Birkenhead, providing a service from the twelfth week of pregnancy. Frank Field hoped that the free school proposal would also attract extra money from other sources.

Mr. Field talked about his visits to schools and that how everyone wanted to be good parents, yet they were witnessing a breakdown in good parenting. He said [in reference to the Children and Young People’s Director] that he wouldn’t want his job “for all the tea in China”. Frank Field continued by saying that a child’s life chances were determined in the first days after birth. They had received their first grant for school readiness and were also looking at the business of how to impart the knowledge to young people about how to be good parents. St. Anselm’s College and Prenton High were part of an initial pilot in trying to incorporate parenting skills into the curriculum. He hoped the political parties would be a part of it. Frank Field said that as no one else had yet done this that they couldn’t give a hundred pages of what other people had done, however he believed people should be behind it and see it through.

Cllr Green said he was “really excited by the idea”. He said that certain families had no way to break out of the cycle [of poverty] and that this wouldn’t end poverty but would make a start and was an opportunity for Wirral to be at the forefront. Would they know the results in 18-20 years time? He asked Frank Field what indicators they were looking for?

Frank Field said that he wanted to see success before then, but there was a longer term aim to break the intergenerational nature of poverty. He continued by pointing out that recently they had found that inequality took shape early on and that schools could raise ability but not change class differences. Frank Field wanted to make increasing numbers of children school ready, he criticised the labelling of some families as “hard to reach” by professionals and said that “producing fine citizens is one of the key things we want”.

Cllr Clarke thanked Frank Field said that the Child and Family Poverty Working Group had worked hard but there was no magic bullet.

Frank Field said the work couldn’t be done by budgets and it would not work unless there was a Herculean effort including the voluntary sector. In his view statutory services were not the best way to reach the families dubbed “hard to reach”, but organisations like Home Start could.

Cllr Harney thanked Frank Field and declared an interest as Chair of the Governors of Observatory School, he went on to raise the issue of low expectations and self-confidence.

Frank Field said that social skills and soft skills were crucial in getting a job.

Cllr Green expressed the view that the voluntary, community and faith sector organisations could have a key role.

Cllr Rennie referred to a previous career in dealing with difficult families and that the same family names were coming up in contact with Social Services. These were the children of the families she’d dealt with years ago.

She also referred to the work of the Mersey Maritime Board and how some couldn’t look their interviewer in the eye at a job interview. Cllr Rennie also referred to a Fire Service project focussed on teaching young people skills. She asked how the outcomes would be measured?

Frank Field said it would be outcome focussed.

Cllr Dave Mitchell said that he had mentioned funding for the first two years, but how would it continue after that?

Frank Field replied that they wanted to apply for free school status so the money would come direct from central government, but they didn’t want to apply until they could show the government it was working.

Cllr Green thanked Frank Field for his “fantastic proposal” and moved a resolution thanking the Child Poverty Working Group. His resolution also recommended to the Working Group that £300,000 would be put towards the establishment outlined in Frank Field’s proposal.

You can read Liam Murphy’s article on the same issue in the Wirral News by following this link.

Corporate Governance Committee (Wirral Council) 26th October 2011 5.00pm (Committee Room 1) Part 10

Jim Wilkie said it was a working response to changing circumstances and that councillors made policy. He asked for further discussions on its precise role and interdependencies.

Cllr Foulkes said he saw it as a start despite the implied criticism. He asked for a detailed overview and said it would help corporate governance. He called it an “excellent start” which would be “more focused when developed” and hoped it was “not a massively excessive cost”. He asked for more detail and to look at how other local authorities did it.

Cllr Harney was happy with what Cllr Foulkes said. He brought up the issues of how to involve partners in policy (in relation to child poverty). Cllr Foulkes added a recommendation for a detailed report to come back. Cllr Ann McLachlan said child poverty work was currently channeled through the Children’s Trust Board but she recommended it go to the policy unit.

The recommendation was agreed which Cllr Foulkes said he was happy to endorse. Cllr Foulkes said it “went better than expected”, that he was “pleased with progress” and that people had been thoughtful. He asked for ideas for the next agenda and for progress reports on the issues councillors have outlined with milestones and dates.

Anna Klonowski said for alll dates, there needs to be a level of ambition and challenge in delivery. Clr Green called for some sort of program. Jim Wilkie said it would be done some time before the next meeting, but not just before at the briefing. Cllr Foulkes agreed and thanked Anna as well as everyone who’d come to the meeting.

Wirral Council Cabinet 13/10/2011 Child Poverty Strategy Action Plan – Progress Report Part 3

Cllr Ann McLachlan said [the Child Poverty Strategy Action Plan] was an “important piece of work” whose “natural home is the Children’s Trust Board”. She said she wanted to move a motion.

Cllr George Davies mentioned Cllr Sheila Clarke and Cllr Mark Johnston. He said that they “owe it to the people of Wirral” and the “statistics are frightening”. He talked about a Tranmere Community Project which had welcomed people from the United States of America to share views. He said certain parts of the Wirral had not altered in the areas of unemployment, housing and deprivation. He said, “Talking has to stop, action has to start.”

Cllr Steve Foulkes referred to the conference and the will to tackle the issue as well as recent press coverage. He also talked about the governance priorities, trends going forward into the future and the last paragraph in which it was declared to be a Budget priority. He said in light of the consultation exercise, he would prefer to call it a “key priority” as it was premature to fit it in the Budget. He said the last paragraph reflected that they would make it a key priority for 2012/13.

Cllr Ann McLachlan said she recognises the issues and welcomed the Action Plan. She emphasised the extreme urgency and referred to an Institute for Fiscal Studies study and referred to 600,000 in child poverty by 2012/13 which would mean the 2010 targets would be missed. She asked Cabinet to agree the recommendations. She thanked people and wanted to make tacking child poverty a key priority. Cllr Steve Foulkes seconded the motion which was agreed.

Wirral Council Cabinet 13/10/2011 Declarations of Interest, Minutes, Child Poverty Strategy Action Plan – Progress Report Part 2

Cllr Foulkes welcomed people to the Cabinet meeting and asked for declarations of interest. There were three declarations of interest. Cllr Ann McLachlan declared a personal interest in items 4 and 5, Cllr Harry Smith declared a personal interest in items 4 and 5 and Cllr Adrian Jones declared a personal interest in items 4 and 5. All three declarations of interest were to do with their involvement with the Merseyside Pension Fund.

The minutes of the meeting held on the 22nd September 2011 were agreed.

Cllr Foulkes asked for a change in the agenda order, after Item 3 on Child Poverty Strategy Action Plan – Progress Report, he wanted to go ahead to Item 23 on Job Evaluation, then back to the agenda as planned. The reason for this change was there had been interest from a trade union official in item 23 (Job Evaluation). Dealing with it earlier in the meeting would allow this person to go home.

Jim Wilkie, Chief Executive introduced the Child Poverty Strategy Action Plan – Progress Report. Jim Wilkie said this report on progress was a statutory duty. He said the previous report had been in April, he referred to the working group and a consultation event at the Floral Pavillion. The strategy and the action plan were appendices to the report and he was asking for approval to authorise further consultation. There were links with the Liverpool City Region Child Poverty and Life Chances Commission, which was chaired by Rt Hon Frank Field MP. Jim Wilkie also referred to supporting families, partnership arrangements and the Children’s Trust Board.

Cllr Foulkes asked for any comments.