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London Child Poverty Summit 2018

Written by Ranjana Prasad,  volunteer at ACAA

In celebration of the London Challenge Poverty Week from October 15-21, the Childhood Trust in partnership with the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Student Union United Nations Society, hosted the inaugural London Child Poverty Summit 2018 on 17 October 2018. The summit was convened to highlight the abysmally high proportion of children in poverty and the appalling circumstances of disadvantaged children in London. According to figures by the Child Poverty Action Group, 700,000 children in London reside below the poverty line. This figure is expected to further grow by 2020 and is the highest rate of child poverty for any English region.

In view of the facts above, the summit convened three distinct panels of professionals in the charity sector to discuss and share the frustration and figures associated with the experiences of vulnerable and disadvantaged children by bringing local charities on a single platform and pooling their knowledge. In view of a declining state budget for addressing child poverty, the summit helped foster a shared purpose amongst civil society, grassroots charities and non-profit organizations to create a more inclusive, safe and strong society that can start building a healthy platform to nurture and inspire young individuals.

The first round table discussion on ‘What matters for disadvantaged children / How is London failing children?’ was chaired by Bharat Mehta, Chief Executive of Trust for London. Featuring diverse leaders from local trusts and organizations working towards reducing child poverty and improving the livelihood of children in situations of distress, the panel discussed legal and statistical challenges to maintaining and gathering robust data from appropriate agencies. Professionals highlighted concerns in the government’s choice of budget allocation and strict austerity that places greater responsibility on civil society to tackle deeper social issues. In the end, addressing child poverty required substantial allocation of funds, enforcement of minimum living wage / standards and national government action extending local safety nets and discretionary credit.

The second round table discussion chaired by Patrick Butler, Social Policy Editor at the Guardian, examined issues ‘On the Frontline of Child Poverty in London’. Speakers included individuals from the grassroots movement, including an informal support worker, a youth worker, a community mentor, a lead therapist and a consultant headteacher. Current challenges and obstacles to improving child poverty were explored at a grassroots level, such as complicated application processes for basic funding, housing and legal services, the inability of local residents to clearly understand these processes, lack of long-term funds and oversight ensuring continuity from the national governments and the need for a meaningful conversation between charities, statutory agencies and government departments.

The final round table discussion on ‘Breaking the Cycle’ of poverty was chaired by Aaron Barbour, Director of the Katherine Low Settlement. Presenting speakers from locally enriched and grassroots charities, the panel explored the consequences of generational poverty and the resulting long-term unemployment due to inadequate professional and mental health support to vulnerable communities. The Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) was represented by the Founder and Director, Dr. Nooralhaq Nasimi, as a guest speaker on the panel. He presented the aim and work of the organization, while simultaneously addressing the challenges to complete integration into UK society. He highlighted the lack of confidence among migrants that precedes the lack of knowledge and awareness they have about various processes of work in the national system. He called for the easing of complex norms and procedures for aiding the next generation of fresh migrants in successfully integrating into a global society.

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