Council to refresh child poverty strategy as Universal Credit cut bites

Senior councillors in Leeds will be asked to renew their commitment to tackling child poverty in Leeds at next week’s Executive Board meeting, with a focus on the Leeds response as numerous national covid response schemes come to an end.

Leeds City Council’s ambitious strategy, Thriving, first launched in 2019, brings together vital work across the city to help reduce the impact of poverty on children and young people.

Next Wednesday (20 October 2021) the Council’s Executive Board will be updated on the work of the Thriving strategy which includes: the co-ordination of an emergency food response through the Local Welfare Support Scheme and free school meals in school holidays; providing help and advice to parents seeking employment; and continuing to expand the city’s successful Healthy Holiday programmes.

Some 24% of children in Leeds are living in poverty and the report highlights the council’s ongoing support for the most vulnerable children and families in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The updated strategy reflects on the need for the council to continue doing everything it can do to mitigate the impacts of child poverty as the end to covid related support including furlough, the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, and self-isolation payments all come to an end.

Councillor Fiona Venner, Executive Member for Adult and Children’s Social Care and Health Partnerships, said:

“Since 2010, sustained government austerity has pushed 700,000 children across the country into poverty.  In Leeds that figure now stands at 24% of children living in the city and the vast majority (75%), live in working households. This is a shameful record and many more families have been swept into poverty in the past 18 months.

“We cannot eradicate child poverty in Leeds – to do that requires a national commitment from government that is clearly not on their agenda. But we can protect children from some of the impacts of poverty and our Thriving strategy brings together multiple collaborative projects for that purpose. Our integrated approach targets those families who are being hit by national cuts to the social security system and which come at the same time as soaring energy prices heading into Winter.

“Our vision is to make Leeds the best city for children and young people to grow up in, and we will do everything in our power to reduce the impacts of child poverty.

“We will also continue to call on the Government to address why so many children in our country, one of the wealthiest in the world, are living in poverty.”

Cllr Mary Harland, Executive Member for Communities added;

“We are proud of the support we’ve seen across the city for the Council’s initiatives, particularly through the pandemic, including our emergency food provision, healthy holiday programmes, and employment support and we have welcomed the Government’s recent announcement of the Household Support Fund.

“We will use this to best effect to support the most vulnerable in our city. But the reality is that this is a sticking plaster on a gaping wound. This type of short-term funding does not allow the Council to put in place long term plans that can effectively lift children and families out of poverty.

“Instead of going ahead with their callous cut to Universal Credit that will take over £1,000 a year off working families, we need long term, sustainable funding from Government in order to do more preventative work to tackle the underlying causes of disadvantage.”


This post is based on a press release issued by Councillors Fiona Venner and Mary Harland