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Government not doing enough to reduce poverty says children's services leader

Ministers must act now or "look back in shame" says president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services...

Stuart Gallimore
Stuart Gallimore, president of the Association of Directors of Children's Services

Published by Professional Social Work magazine - 7 March 2019

The government was criticised for failing to do enough to tackle poverty by the most senior leader of children’s services in England.

Stuart Gallimore, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said poverty was “not inevitable” and ministers had a “choice” to reduce it.

Writing in the Municipal Journal, he said: “Children are arriving at school hungry, families are queuing up at food banks and schools are buying coats and even washing clothes for pupils and their families. I fear these things are becoming part of the wallpaper.”

Gallimore, who is also director of children’s services at East Sussex County Council, said poverty was “front and centre” of the work local authorities do with children and families.

As well as lacking food and clothing, another manifestation was “poverty of opportunity” squeezing children with special education needs out of mainstream education and services such as libraries and youth centres closing.

“It is our job to help children through this, but a sustained period of austerity, a 50 per cent reduction in our budgets since 2010, and rising need in our communities has impacted on the range and reach of services we are able to provide to vulnerable children and their families," Gallimore said.

He added governmental response to UN envoy Professor Philip Alston’s damning report on extreme poverty and human rights in Britain was “disappointing”.

Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd criticised the “extraordinary political nature” of the language used in the report published last year.

Gallimore urged ministers to act in the face of predictions that the figure of four million children currently living in poverty is set to rise to five million within a few years.

“Poverty is not inevitable," he said. "For central government, investing in strategies that reduce childhood poverty is both a smart and efficient economic policy as well as the right thing to do. We have reduced poverty before so we can make a choice to do it again. If we do nothing, we will look back in shame.”

This article is published by Professional Social work magazine which provides a platform for a range of perspectives across the social work sector. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the British Association of Social Workers.