Under the Child Poverty Act 2010, all top-tier councils are required to have a strategy on tackling child poverty as well as a needs assessment for their local area. Councils were given a deadline of March 2011 to complete these, but when the coalition came into power the deadline was removed as part of its commitment towards localism.
4Children visited the websites of all 152 local authorities in England to see if they had published their needs assessments and strategies, and found only 74. Of those that had not published a strategy, 4Children contacted a selection of 40 councils and found that in the majority of cases those that had not published their strategies did not have one.
Among the 10 authorities with the highest proportion of children living in poverty only six had strategies in place. Birmingham, Hackney, Manchester and Tower Hamlets had not produced a strategy, according to the research.
Anne Longfield, chief executive of 4Children, said: “Tackling the unacceptable levels of child poverty and depravation in this country must be a priority and ensuring that local authorities are at the heart of this is essential.
“We applaud those councils that have take the national legislation seriously and been proactive about designing and publishing their strategies. But, to find that they are in the minority and that so many councils have been so slow to set out their plans is extremely worrying.”
Each local authority's child poverty strategy should set out how many children are living in poverty and set out how the numbers will be reduced and eventually eradicated.
“Without strategies that link vital services together and properly identify the needs of children living within the most vulnerable families, we will only see the numbers of children suffering increase,” Longfield added.
“Times are tough and councils are inevitably facing huge challenges with more limited resources, but this cannot be an excuse to let children down.”