To receive an update on the Poverty Intervention Fund
The Sub-Committee considered a report on the use and spend of the Poverty Intervention Fund.
The purpose of the Fund was to help to alleviate the impact of poverty on families and individuals across North Tyneside with particular emphasis on children, by providing support to those who needed it.
On 21 September 2020, Cabinet had agreed the first priorities and initiatives for the Fund. These were to deliver the Fund in a phased approach with the first phase focussed on the following priorities:
- for children – focusing on the key impact which living in poverty has in relation to their experience at school
- for older people – focusing on the key impact of not taking up full benefit entitlement
- for families with children – focusing on the key impact of not being able to afford the essentials of clothing for school and food during school holidays (where they do not have access to free school meals).
The Committee considered an update on progress on the following initiatives in the 2020/2021 financial year:
- Poverty Proofing the School Day (for children)
- benefit advice and support for older residents (for older people)
- school appropriate clothing (for families with children)
- holiday food (for families with children)
- Food for older residents (for older people)
£172,755 had been allocated from the Poverty Intervention Fund for Poverty Proofing the School Day in order to address the impacts of poverty felt by children and young people at school.
The Programme was run by Children North East and delivered through schools and sought to better understand what poverty looks like from a child and young person’s perspective.
Each school involved was fully supported to be able to put in place an action plan to alleviate this in the school setting and to reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by children who live in poverty.
Funding the programme through the Poverty Intervention Fund meant that every school in the borough was able to take part and there was a consistent experience for children and young people.
Successful outcomes for the programme included more equity of experience, opportunity and learning outcomes for pupils who live in poverty. Where the programme had been delivered there had also been improvements in relation to mental health and wellbeing amongst children and young people. Schools had implemented actions such as free musical instrument tuition for all pupils, supplying bus passes, alternatives to non-uniform days for fund-raising, not sending debt letters home with pupils and challenging staff over whether asking pupils to write about their holidays or presents was appropriate.
Members acknowledged that one of the biggest impacts for schools was a cultural shift. One school told evaluators that previously, they had done things without ‘necessarily being aware of what the impact on disadvantaged pupils would be’, but that after the programme, they ‘now considered the impact first’.
The programme would run through all of the 2021/2022 academic year to ensure that no school was disadvantaged due to the impact of Covid.
£253,845 had been allocated from the Poverty Intervention Fund to support families with the costs of school clothing – uniform, coats and shoes.
Part of the funding was used to provide £45 directly to families for every pupil in receipt of free school meals due to low income. This was being provided through a locally managed scheme where vouchers were provided for parents and carers to be able to purchase the clothing for school. Vouchers of £20 per pupil had been provided for use at the eight school uniform suppliers across the borough (for branded uniform items) and vouchers of £25 per pupil have been provided for use in supermarkets which supply school clothing.
In June 2020 there were 6225 families in receipt of free school meals and this number had now increased to 7025 families.
Additional access to school clothing over and above the £45 per pupil had also been provided for families in need via the Community School Clothing Scheme. This was able to be accessed through schools and work was undertaken with schools to identify those in need.
£200,000 of the Poverty Intervention Fund was allocated to provide support for families to meet the costs of food during school holidays. During the October 2020 half term school holiday a trial saw five providers delivering food and activities to children on free school meals and through this, over 1,700 meals were delivered either face to face or remotely through hamper provision. The total cost of this activity was £6,646.
In November 2020, the government announced the COVID Winter Grant which was to support those most in need by providing support over the winter to children and households who were experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, poverty, where they were impacted by the ongoing public health emergency and where alternative sources of assistance might be unavailable. By using this funding for holiday food, it was possible to redirect the remainder of the amount originally allocated for this purpose in the Poverty Intervention Fund to extend the school clothing scheme and also to provide funding for food for older people over winter.
The Government recently announced additional funding to local authorities to provide for holiday activities via the Holiday Activity Fund. North Tyneside’s allocation of this fund was £788k. This holiday provision was for children who were entitled to benefits-related free school meals.
Work was currently underway to develop the model for the delivery of school
holiday activities across North Tyneside in line with the criteria for the
Government funding. This would also contribute to addressing the policy
priorities identified for the Poverty Intervention Fund.
In relation to the Benefit take-up campaign for older residents which was delivered by Age UK and Citizens Advice, Members asked how the Council would ensure that the organisations were giving value for money and it was confirmed that quarterly monitoring meetings were held with the organisations.
Reference was made to families in in-work poverty who were struggling but who did not qualify for free school meals and it was noted that due to pressures on schools in relation to the pandemic and school lockdowns, the free school meals criteria had been used but going forward the Council would be working closely with schools who would have the capacity to identify those additional families in need.
It was agreed to note the contents of the report.
The Chair thanked the Senior Manager Participation, Advocacy and Engagement for the informative report and for attendance at the meeting.