“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of.”

Report on Children’s Trust Conference 6 Nov 2013

In a developed country in the twenty first century should we really be having a discussion about deprived families and children growing up in poverty?

Well we were, attending the Children’s Trust Conference; and to listen to the speakers things are only going to get worse with the government fated to miss their own targets to reduce child poverty by the so called ‘county mile’.

The initial opening presentation by Adrian Loades Executive Director – Children and Young People’s Services and Adult Social Care at the County Council set out the position and issues, and introduced Children’s Trust and their priorities.

CT Adrian presentation_009

What can be seen from this is that this is not an insignificant problem, and hence the big conference to look at the way forward.

We heard from the Chief Executive of the Child Poverty Action Group who ran down the national statistics. More information can be found here about the numbers but what can not be ignored is the scale of the problem, and the massive publicity campaign that is vilifying anyone who has the terminacity to be poor or on benefits. The message that ‘It could be you’ was somewhat lost but needs to be shouted loud and clear.

We also heard from a service user in an inspirational presentation about how different organisations have helped her. Despite this being an incredible achievement on her part to stand up and tell her story, I can not help but think that many of the organisations present would have had equally inspiring stories and case studies and that this audience did not need to be reminded about how important their work is. That said, for me as an ‘outsider, it was a moving and thought provoking part of the morning.

Finally the morning concluded with a presentation about the importance of aspirations, how they change and their impact on educational attainment. The research that this was based on can be found on the JRF website

For me the slides that crystallised this are below, and Loic Menzies was right to point out that aspirations were not the issue but the more important work we have is how we ensure that they do not disappear. This is contrary to what David Cameron has said in the press recently (and to my mind shows he continues to build a wall between ‘them and us’).

Cambs CC pres_022

Cambs CC pres_024

So What

Where does this leave us? There is going to be an on-going need for services provided by both statutory and voluntary organisations. In fact there is likely to be even more need but there will be less money. There is a strong sense of wanting to work more in partnership and collaboratively, and yet there is still a strong contract culture that precludes this from happening.

The issue of multiple needs again becomes important as deprivation has many consequences, symptoms and causes. Once again the call for person centred solutions delivered by organisations working in siloes seems to be the desire but there are problems with making this a reality. There are some excellent collaborations and joint success stories but this seems to happen despite the system not because the system promotes it. The voluntary sector needs to get its house in order, we still have a long way to go to ensure real joined up solutions. My hope is that events like this one will promote this and move the agenda forward and not simply be repeated in 12 months.

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