Tackling child poverty through schools

In 2019 the Mayor of London funded a pilot project to tackle child poverty through schools. The project worked with the Child Poverty Action Group and a small number of London primary schools to find ways to help teachers and staff already providing informal support low-income families. The project also explored the broader role schools could play in tackling child poverty and tested delivering welfare rights advice to parents on the school grounds.

Key information:

  • around 700,000 children in London are growing up in poverty, and this number is set to rise
  • as a public service reaching all families, schools regularly see the effects of child poverty first-hand
  • school staff are increasingly providing basic forms of support to low-income families 

How we supported low-income families

We worked in 11 primary schools across four boroughs – Camden, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Newham, and Southwark.

Each school was given support to design and implement a range of initiatives that would help pupils and parents from low-income families.

This included:

  • completing needs assessments
  • compiling local directories of support services
  • developing a 'Parent Champion' volunteering role to encourage use of support services 
  • delivering holiday events and activities to reduce holiday food insecurity
  • applying for local grants or funding for activities or services
  • funding a small number of welfare rights advisors to deliver regular advice sessions to parents

What were the outcomes?

The independent evaluation found:

  • improved health and wellbeing in participating families
  • significantly improved financial outcomes for participating families
  • improved school practices, including referral pathways to and from local support services

There was also evidence that further efforts could improve employment outcomes for parents and educational attainment for children.

Welfare rights advice:

During the project, every £1 spent on advisors resulted in £3 additional income for low-income families. Welfare rights advisors: 

  • secured additional income for 1 in 3 families they saw, with an increase of more than £7,000 per household
  • raised more than £140,000 in additional annual income for families involved
  • raised more than £20,000 in one-off payments for families involved

How has this made a difference to the lives of Londoners?

Many of the families who took part in the pilot identified the positive impact it had on their lives.

One parent explained that before receiving support through the project they were struggling to access welfare payments - despite having a health impairment that meant they couldn't work. 

"I don't know why they didn’t believe me. I had the hospital papers, I had the GP letters. I don't know why they decided I was fit to work. I don't know why they rejected me." 

This was causing additional stress on the family and they were running out of options.

“I was in pain, my kids were going to be hungry, I didn’t know what to do anymore. I was completely lost."  

Through the pilot they were referred to one of our embedded advisors who helped them challenge the decision and supported them in court. The parent was then able to access the benefits they deserved.

"Everything is getting better because of the advisor I saw...They have changed everything. I'm now not worried about the Job Centre, I'm not worried about housing...I'll never forget them. They put peace in my house" 

Find out more

The pilot project was delivered by the Child Poverty Action Group.

The independent evaluation was carried out by WSA Community Consultants in partnership with Kim Donahue Consulting.   

The GLA are currently working with Diane Dixon Associates to explore how the successful aspects of this pilot could be delivered at scale in the future.

To find out more please contact [email protected] 

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