Challenging child poverty through the pandemic: Working across agencies to understand our reach and role in recovery

Blog from Anna Baillie, Glasgow Child Poverty Co-ordinator 

The impact of COVID-19

COVID 19 has brought with it a lot of lessons. This pandemic has been and continues to be extremely challenging for us all but in particular for families living on low incomes. Pre-COVID 19, Glasgow had a child poverty rate of 1 in 3[1], higher than the national average of 1 in 4. The End Child Poverty Coalition recently estimated the Glaswegian child poverty rate as high as 37%.

In short, the numbers of children growing up in poverty in Glasgow was on the increase before the pandemic hit and these statistics are likely to be exacerbated by the global crisis we are currently in the midst of.

However, we know children and families are much more than statistics. There are many factors which can impact on whether a child experiences poverty. In order to truly understand how to adequately tackle child poverty, we need to unpick what we know about families in Glasgow to identify where and how we can make the most impact to ensure that children and families are as healthy and happy as they can be.

There’s already a lot happening across the city. There are a number of multi-agency, strategic groups, including the Challenge Child Poverty Partnership which has a city wide focus and brings together key partners from third sector, HSCP, NHS GGC and Glasgow City Council. In addition to this there are numerous agencies and workers across the city dedicated to challenging child poverty and supporting families to navigate the difficult issues it presents.

We are fortunate in Glasgow to have a diverse landscape of service provision including a vibrant third sector. Third sector agencies often work at the coal face of child poverty and are integral in helping us understand what we need to do to improve and evolve the system of support for families across the city.

Learning from the third sector

GCVS and the Glasgow Child Poverty Co-ordinator (based at CPAG) hosted an event at the end of September aimed at understanding our reach in tackling child poverty. We asked service providers from across the third sector (as well as colleagues in statutory services) to come along and share their expertise and ideas. We focused our discussions around the three drivers of child poverty:

  • Income from Employment
  • Income from Social Security
  • Costs of living

We heard the frontline perspective from two projects: Financial Inclusion Officer based in secondary schools via GEMAP and the Wee Govanites’ Toy Library as well as having small group discussions to delve deeper into common themes and identify priorities moving forward.

Nearly 60 services attended and shared learning and knowledge. There were clear themes from the discussions and presentations around about challenges families are facing, including:

  • The detrimental impact of the pandemic on levels of isolation and poor mental health and wellbeing amongst families
  • Preventing crises – families already coping with significant demands pre-COVID 19 now see those demands exacerbated, in particular around child care and meeting basic needs
  • Financial resilience and coping with income crises is very difficult for families without a robust safety net in place
  • Accessible expert advice is key to ensuring families are in receipt of everything they are entitled to

COVID 19 has brutally exposed and increased the difficulties families face living on a low income and this was keenly felt across all agencies represented at the event.

Priorities for working together

Alongside exploring issues families are experiencing, we discussed priorities for working together to resolve some of those challenges and drivers of child poverty being experienced by families at the moment, including:

  • Recognising the importance of robust local partnerships across agencies as key in terms of recovery
  • Ensuring we are able to reach priority families we know are more vulnerable to experiencing poverty, in particular families with a member who has a disability, lone parents and BME families.
  • Pooling resources, knowledge and expertise to overcome the significant challenge of future planning in an uncertain funding climate

The landscape of service provision has shifted massively for families, from an increasingly online nature of delivery to altered, reduced and ceased services across the city. There was a strong sense that it’s important we work together to understand the impact this has had on the available system of support for children and families.

Whilst significantly increasing incomes and providing a robust safety net for families for the difficult times ahead requires policy intervention at Scottish and UK Government level, many issues and ideas identified are within the gift of local government, voluntary and statutory services and agencies to action plan for now.

Next steps

Our time ran out to discuss everything we wanted to but there was a general consensus that another event specifically looking at next steps and monitoring impact would be useful. We have a big task ahead to reduce levels of child poverty in Glasgow but with communication and partnership working across agencies we can begin to take positive steps to evolve and improve our local system of support.

We hope to organise another event in early 2021 focusing on monitoring and evaluating our work and to pick up from where we left off – look out for details, we’d love to have you there. In the meantime, see details of our next child poverty focused event below:

What’s the cost? Exploring invisible barriers for families on low incomes

19th November 2020  10am to 12noon Online 

There’s lots of work taking place across Glasgow to understand the invisible barriers families living on low incomes experience when accessing universal services. Three reports recently published give useful insight to the challenges families face as well as tools to revolve some those challenges:

We know that third sector agencies have a lot to offer when it comes to supporting families.

We’re hosting an event to understand and explore the recommendations from these reports as well as how we can work together to implement them. Please come and share your expertise.

Get your tickets here 

 

[1] Glasgow Local Child Poverty Action Report 2018/19