Children in Poverty – Department in Disarray

08:08 Tuesday 8th May 2012
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

Listen to the audio here

PAUL STAINTON: A charity that helps families and kids in poverty says Peterborough City Council isn’t equipped to support people who struggle to make ends meet. According to 4Children, the Council doesn’t have a strategy in place for helping youngsters and parents cope. It comes after research reveals that three local authorities, Central Bedfordshire, Suffolk and Peterborough, have failed to take even the first steps towards combatting the problem. Well Mark Bennett from 4Children was on the show earlier. He says he’s alarmed by the lack of preparation by Peterborough City Council. (TAPE)
MARK BENNETT: It sounds to me like there is a council in Peterborough which is not taking its duties to children and particularly children in poverty and struggling families very seriously. If you can’t measure anything, you can’t show in a year’s time whether you’ve made any progress or not, because you’ve not actually set yourself any targets. (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well we asked Peterborough City Council for their strategy on child poverty, and we’ve yet to receive it. But they have let us speak to the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr. Sheila Scott. Morning Sheila.
SHEILA SCOTT: Good morning Paul.
PAUL STAINTON: Have you managed to find the strategy document anywhere?
SHEILA SCOTT: Well it’s a really interesting question, because ..
PAUL STAINTON: Well yes or no, really Sheila.
SHEILA SCOTT: .. speak to anybody, but I have in front of me the Peterborough Strategic Development Plan for Poverty Reduction and Social Mobility, which we are working on. That’s what .. that’s our plan.
PAUL STAINTON: So you’re working on it at the moment? You don’t actually have one.
SHEILA SCOTT: I’m sorry Paul?
PAUL STAINTON: You’re working on it at the moment, but you don’t have one.
SHEILA SCOTT: … which we are using, but, I’m not convinced. I need to find out. I’ll let you know tomorrow whether or not it’s actually been adopted by the Council. It’s certainly been to Scrutiny Committee, because they scrutinised it very carefully. I was there. But I’ll need to come back to you about whether or not the Council’s actually adopted it. But this is our document, the one that we are working towards. As well, of course, children living in poverty and safeguarding go together. And I believe, and I think everybody that works in Children’s Services believes, that working to eradicate poverty for most children is an important part of the safeguarding improvement plan which as you know very well we are currently taking forward.
PAUL STAINTON: It just seems a bit late to be working on a plan, when, after the last couple of years, our Children’s Services have been lambasted by Ofsted, we’re paying a gentleman a heck of a lot of cash to sort Children’s Services out. One in four kids in poverty in Peterborough, and we’re working on a strategy. We haven’t got a strategy, we’re working on one.
SHEILA SCOTT: I think you’ve misunderstood me. When I say working on I mean this is the strategy that we are implementing.
PAUL STAINTON: Well you’re not even sure if it’s been signed off.
SHEILA SCOTT: Indeed I’m not. But this is the one we are working towards. And I think.
PAUL STAINTON: Towards, yes. Why haven’t we got one?
SHEILA SCOTT: We’re working towards eradicating poverty Paul. Not working towards a strategy. We are working towards eradicating ..
PAUL STAINTON: Did you have s strategy before then? Did you have a plan?
SHEILA SCOTT: I would like to speak to the gentleman that you had on earlier. I would like to speak to him, and make sure that we have what we think are all options covered. I can tell you the sort of work that we’ve been doing, the important things we’ve done, such as ensure the future of our fifteen children’s centres. They’re one of the key areas where we can have early intervention, which is more .. is so important to prevent no more children falling into poverty. But of course children in poverty is not children in poverty for me, it’s families in poverty. And we have to make sure that each and every family living in our city has the best opportunities so that the best opportunities go to the children so that those families that are living in poverty can get out of poverty.
PAUL STAINTON: We’ve known for two years from Ofsted and other indicators that there are a lot of people struggling in the city, a lot of children struggling, and we’ve been failing children. What was the previous plan? Did we have a plan before is what I’m trying to get at Sheila. Did we have a strategic plan?
SHEILA SCOTT: We did Paul. This is our first strategy, and if you’ll have me back tomorrow morning I’ll come back and tell you what the situation with it is.
PAUL STAINTON: So there was no plan before.
SHEILA SCOTT: .. I am determined that the strategy, the strategic development plan that I have in front of me is being worked on. As you probably know, we now have an officer leading on ..
PAUL STAINTON: Sheila, I don’t mean to interrupt, but I just need to get to the nub of the point here. So, we’re working on a strategy at the moment. For the last two years we’ve known about all the problems. You’re saying we didn’t have a plan before.
SHEILA SCOTT: That’s what I’ve said. Yes. I’ve also said, if you ask me back tomorrow morning .. I was asked to come on and speak about children living in poverty, which I’ve come on to speak about, to tell you waht I am doing. But, if you want to know about the strategy, I’m very happy to come back again tomorrow morning and talk about the piece of paper.
PAUL STAINTON: Well I’m just amazed that we haven’t had a plan before. I’m amazed by that. We’ve got children living in poverty in wards like Dogsthorpe, some of the worst for poverty in the country, and we haven’t had a plan in place to sort it out.
SHEILA SCOTT: I’m sure there are officers sitting in their homes at this moment yelling at me that we did have a strategic development plan before for children living in poverty. I’ll come back and tell you tomorrow morning.
PAUL STAINTON: Well you just said you didn’t.
SHEILA SCOTT: That’s my understanding, yes. This is, I believe, our first strategic development plan for poverty reduction.
PAUL STAINTON: Can you see why people might not be confident in what you’re saying this morning? You’re not sure, you don’t know, you’re possibly .. ? Should poeople be confident that Children’s Services are in the right hands in the city?
SHEILA SCOTT: I think they’d want to know what I’m doing about it, and I’m very very pleased to tell you.
PAUL STAINTON: Sheila, thank you for that. We will get you back on tomorrow morning and find out perhaps whether we do have a plan, possibly had a plan, didn’t have a plan, and whether the working plan that you’ve got at the moment has been adopted or might be in the future possibly.



PAUL STAINTON: This from Michael Fletcher, Cllr Michael Fletcher. He says: ” Re the report on children living in poverty you’ve been talking about this morning. What a pity this kind of thing cannot be reported before the election. As you know Paul, I asked the question at Full Council ..” says Cllr Fletcher. And this is the question “.. As this Council has paid the thick end of £1 million for the transformation of children’s services, who exactly is to blame for the debacle that in less than two years has resulted in the department being placed under spacial measures. That question was fudged, and has never been reported to the general public.” It has now.



PAUL STAINTON: On the subject of Councillor Sheila Scott not knowing whether there was a strategic plan in place now, yesterday or tomorrow for Children’s Services in the city, Councillor Bella Saltmarsh has been on. She says: ” Perhaps somebody could remind Cllr Scott that she was actually at the meeting on 16th January 2012 when the Child Poverty Action Plan was discussed. Comments were made about actions, and members were to be kept informed, and a detailed action plan complete with timeline is due to be provided to the Committee in June of this year. John Shearman was also agreed to be the Child Poverty Champion. So stuff is being done. It’s just a shame that the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services doesn’t remember.” says Cllr Bella Saltmarsh.