Scrutiny review group recommends series of wide-ranging actions to address child poverty

Published: Friday, 30th September 2022

An Oxford City Council scrutiny review group has recommended a series of wide-ranging actions to tackle child poverty in the city.

The Child Poverty Review Group was established by the City Council’s Scrutiny Committee to look at the issue, which impacts almost one in three children in Oxford.

The group sought advice from more than a dozen experts, including representatives from Oxford and District Action on Child Poverty, Donnington Doorstep, Agnes Smith Advice Centre, Oxford Mutual Aid and the University of Oxford during a series of meetings between January and March 2022.

The group’s report sets out 42 recommendations to improve the lives of children and young people in Oxford, including that the City Council:

  • Continues to communicate to central government the impacts of the current “inadequate” welfare system
  • Commits to maintaining advice centre funding on, at minimum, an inflation-adjusted basis for the next four years
  • Provides cash support for those receiving poverty-related support, not vouchers or support in kind
  • Produces a Poverty Strategy within the next 18 months informed continually by the voices of the young people affected

The group also recommended embedding a new duty, known as the Socioeconomic Duty, to require the City Council, when making decisions or spending money, to consider whether or not they are helping to reduce the gap between the richest and poorest in the city.

The report was presented to the City Council’s Cabinet in June. The Cabinet asked for more time to provide a sufficiently full response, so the report will be discussed again at a future Cabinet meeting.

The full Child Poverty in Oxford report is available on the City Council’s website.

The Scrutiny Committee is cross-party and made up of backbench councillors. The committee’s role is to carry out a ‘check and balance’ and ‘critical friend’ function to the Cabinet by reviewing policies, decisions and key issues affecting residents.

“The dramatic increases in the cost of living over the last year mean not only that many more children are facing poverty, but that those already in poverty are facing acute curtailments to the most basic life needs – having to choose between heating and eating.

“Child poverty causes life-long scarring and stigmatisation and prevents children from thriving. That this continues in a city such as ours in the sixth largest economy in the world requires immediate and unified action by all institutions in the city ensuring that the impact of every decision on our poorest residents is given utmost priority.”

Councillor Dr Hosnieh Djafari-Marbini, Chair of the Child Poverty Review Group

“Scrutiny plays a vital role in our City Council, acting as the ‘critical friend’ to the administration, identifying points of policy and implementation where the Council could do better for the people of Oxford.

“As child poverty can have myriad knock-on effects throughout the child’s life, this is one of the most important fields where the Council needs to go above and beyond to do the very best it is able.

“I am grateful to all members of the Review Group for their work to enhance the Council’s work and improve children’s lives.”

Councillor Dr Christopher Smowton, Chair of the Scrutiny Committee