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From Struggling To Succeeding

Sheffield’s Child and Household Poverty Strategy

Summary Version for Consultation

We have looked at the needs of people in Sheffield who are experiencing poverty (through our Child Poverty Needs Assessment) and listened to their experiences. We have written this draft strategy to set out what we can and will do to tackle the most important issues.


We aim to create a fairer Sheffield and we want to do this by improving the life chances of those children, families and households who are already living in, or who are in danger of falling into poverty.

We know that poverty is caused by many things and looks and feels different for everyone. We also know that how we do things is often as important as what we do. So when we support people, we’ll think about at their individual situations and the people they live with. We’ll make sure we listen and work together with them as well as any other service supporting them. We call this the whole household approach.

We also know that there are other people living in Sheffield who experience poverty, including single people, couples without children and older people and their needs must be met too. These people are all encompassed by our whole household approach to poverty.

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In the UK, 4 million children live in poverty and around 27,000 of these live in Sheffield. This means that in our city a quarter of children are growing up in households where there isn’t always enough money to pay for what most people would consider the essentials such as a healthy diet, a decent, warm home, a winter coat or the opportunity for children to take part in school trips and activities.

It is clear that tackling poverty means we need to address inequality of income and that the best route out of poverty for those of working age and able to work is to get a well paid and secure job. People who have grown up poor often have worse job prospects and earn less than average which then means their children are also more at risk of poverty – in this way many generations of families can be trapped in poverty.

However, poverty is not just about money. It is also about health and education, community and aspiration, good parenting and resilience. We have seen that there is a big difference in outcomes for children growing up in poverty. Poverty can blight lives and prevent both children and adults from fulfilling their potential.

The Child Poverty Act 2010 means that local authorities and named partners (health, transport, jobcentreplus, police, youth offending teams, probation) are now required by law to cooperate in meeting the target of eliminating child poverty by 2020. As part of this requirement, we are working together to, publish a local Needs Assessment and produce a joint Strategy to make things as good as they can be for children experiencing poverty.

The national Child Poverty Strategy was published in April 2011. It commits to tackling the causes of poverty to give children from poor families more of a chance to escape poverty as adults. The main things it aims to do are strengthening families, encouraging responsibility, promoting work, guaranteeing fairness and supporting the most vulnerable.

The current national targets are that by 2020:

  • Less than 10% of children will be in relative poverty
  • Less than 5% of children will be in absolute low income
  • Less than 5% of children will experience material deprivation

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Scale of the challenge

Achieving the national goals will require extraordinary efforts at a national level:

  • More than twice as many of the children in the UK now live in poverty than they did when their parents were young. Child poverty did fall by almost a quarter up to 2004-5, but studies show the numbers will be back up by 2013 due mainly to the recession and the action to reduce the national debt. meaning that households now have lower incomes, also significant changes to benefits and higher food and fuel prices.
  • A strong labour market before 2007 and fewer people being unemployed helped reduce child and household poverty but the recession and more people being without a job have meant that this is now changing. Even in the best times, at least one fifth of the all people of working age nationally was getting some form of out of work benefit and most of these had not been in work for more than two years. This was and still is a big part of why people get trapped in poverty for generations.
  • Having parents in work is important, but on its own this cannot get rid of child poverty. Many children and households live in poverty in spite of the fact that one or more people works. In fact, this has been increasing over the last ten years and the proportion of poor children living in working households increased to 61 per cent in 2008/09, up from 50 per cent in 2005/06.

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Child Poverty in Sheffield

A group of us who work for Sheffield City Council, South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, South Yorkshire Police, the Health Service, Faith Groups, Charities, Voluntary Organisations, South Yorkshire Transport and Job Centre Plus came together to find out what the picture looks like for children in poverty in Sheffield; what is already being done to make things better and  what else we need to do.  We shared what we found out from all the facts and figures and from talking and listening to whole households in the Needs Assessment.

Officially people talk about children living in poverty when their household income is below 60% of the average.  This is £19,000 per year for a family with two adults and two children before any housing costs are taken off. Around a quarter (24.4%) of children in Sheffield were living in poverty in 2009 (the latest data). This is higher than the figures for both England (21.3%) and the Yorkshire & Humber region (21.9%) but second lowest, after Leeds (22.7%) when compared to the core cities.

Sheffield has huge local differences between the North East and the South West with seven particular areas where poverty is at its highest: Central (43%), Firth Park (45%), Manor Castle (45%), Burngreave (42%), Darnall (37%), Southey (38%) and Arbourthorne (38%).

Our needs assessment and national evidence show that children are more likely to live in poverty if:

  • they live in families with more than three children
  • they live with only one of their parents
  • they have a teenage parent
  • they are from Black and minority ethnic families (particularly Somali and Yemeni in Sheffield)
  • they live in a household where a family member has disabilities
  • they have learning difficulties
  • they live in a household where one or more parents is in low paid or part-time work
  • they live in a household where the parent or parents are not in work

Of course, not all children living in households like these are in poverty, but the likelihood is that much higher if they do.

Children are more likely than adults to live in low income households, but there are still large numbers of adults experiencing poverty. A third of all people in low-income households are working-age adults without children. This is the only group in poverty which has increased over the past ten years. Some older people are more likely to be in poverty and we know that women are paid less than men for doing the same sort of work.  This means that women pensioners also tend to be poorer than men.

When we did the needs assessment and talked to people in Sheffield, we thought about the things that lead people into poverty, keep them there or move them out, as well as the things that make it better or worse for them while they are living in poverty. This has all been considered in this draft strategy. The things that people told us were most important to tackle have also been included in it.

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Sheffield’s approach to tackling child and household poverty

It is very likely that child and household poverty are going to increase for some years to come. This means that it is really important that we work hard to reduce the negative impacts for people who are living in poverty and also that we give their children a fairer start in life. To do this we need to make sure that both children and adults have the skills, support, self-belief and aspiration to take advantage of those opportunities in education, employment and active citizenship that will help them to break the out of the poverty trap. However, everything that people and families do, needs to be backed up by work to improve opportunities and conditions across the city. 

As we have been writing this draft strategy, we have gone back through everything we found out from our own needs assessment and also research that people have done on the issue across the UK. This tells us what works in tackling child and household poverty and from it we have developed a strategic plan for Sheffield. It sets out what partners, working together, can do right now to tackle the damaging effects of poverty on both children and adults. It also shows what we need to do over the longer term to make sure that children growing up in poverty today do not have to be the parents of children in poverty in the future.

Short term - maximising income and reducing outgoings

We will do this by:

  • helping people to understand the things that can be done to ease poverty
  • making sure people get the benefits and support they are entitled to
  • helping people with practical things like budgeting
  • making sure people know about lower rates for things like electricity and gas
  • making sure people can get credit that is affordable when they need it
  • supporting people to get into work and get better jobs, especially people who need extra help or have been out of work for a long time

Medium term - improving life chances for children and adults

We will do this by:

  • supporting the aspirations and self-belief of all children and adults
  • focusing on family literacy, numeracy, communication and family learning for those who need it most
  • strengthening parenting skills and the quality of learning in the home  
  • improving attendance and attainment at school and preventing disengagement from education, employment and training
  • helping adults get the skills and qualifications they need to get well paid secure jobs
  • helping people to understand the benefits of healthy lifestyles, in particular stopping smoking and increasing breast feeding, healthy eating and exercise
  • supporting people to have more choice about their homes
  • creating family-friendly jobs for those with caring responsibilities

Long term - breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty

We will do this by

  • targeted work to reduce the numbers of young people involved in crime, levels of young people not in employment, education or training
  • making sure that we join up different services to support people at risk of poverty (through whole household approaches)
  • school and partners’ roles in preparing children for their futures
  • getting in there early to stop those most at risk from becoming being parents of children living in poverty in the future (including specialist support for teen parents)

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What are we going to do about it?

We have a draft set of important challenges, which are the headings for our action plan.

  1. Increase understanding of the impact of poverty and what can be done to tackle it
  2. Raise aspiration and engagement and attainment in learning for children and young people in poverty
  3. Raise the skills and aspirations of parents and carers for themselves and their families
  4. Build resilient communities
  5. Increase access to employment for disadvantaged groups
  6. Reduce health inequalities

There is already work going on to tackle each of these challenges and this is explained in more detail in the action and performance monitoring plan.

How will we know how we’re doing?

We have developed a draft plan which shows what the challenge is, what we will do to tackle it, how we will know how we’re doing and who will do the work. You can see this at the end of this summary document. 

What would we like you to do?

We’ve gone so far with this. Once we had the facts and figures we spoke to people like you living and working in Sheffield and asked you what we had missed and what we had got right.

You’ve told us your ideas and what you think we need to focus on.

Now we’ve drafted this strategy and action plan and we want to hear from you again.  And it won’t stop there.  As long as there are high numbers of children living in poverty in Sheffield, we’ll keep asking you whether we’re focusing on the right things and what else we should be doing.

By 2020 we want to have made change.  Help us to decide what that change is.  Stay involved as we try to make Sheffield an even better place for everyone.

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