Success of child poverty pilots remains uncertain

Neil Puffett
Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pilot schemes aimed at reducing levels of child poverty by helping parents into work are being well received but it remains unclear whether they are leading to employment, a report has found.

The CPU Child Poverty Pilots: Interim Synthesis Report details evidence from nine child poverty pilots that have been operating across England since 2008, with more than a third of local authorities involved with at least one of the initiatives.

Findings from the child poverty pilots could help shape the national child poverty strategy, due to be published imminently.

Each pilot has been testing a range of different approaches to reducing child poverty, some having a whole community focus, others targeting families or specific groups or individuals.

The pilots include the child poverty family intervention project, which provides intensive interventions to families with significant barriers to work such as mental health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and family functioning issues.

There is also co-ordinated local support for separating parents, which aims to improve access to help and minimise parental conflict and negative impact on children’s outcomes.

In addition, local authority innovation pilots look at a wide range of activities designed by local authorities to tackle child poverty. And the school gates employment support initiative provides employment support to parents of primary school children to help them prepare for going back to work.

There is also a teenage parent supported housing pilot — enhancing housing support available to teenage parents and work-focused services in children’s centres — exploring the benefits of integrating Jobcentre Plus advisers in children’s centres.

The report found that the initiatives are succeeding in reaching out to families that were not receiving help before.

"One important theme in the evidence base is whether the pilots are reaching out to new and previously under-served groups of parents and families," the report states. "The early indications are very encouraging."

It adds that the emerging evidence indicated that the pilots have been well received and are improving confidence although evidence of whether they have actually led to sustained employment will not be available until a final report on the pilots is published in late summer.

"Across the interim evidence base, soft outcomes are reported as being most prevalent for participants: greater confidence; increased awareness of opportunities and options; access to job preparation skills and support," the report says.

"Although encouraging evidence, the route out of poverty depends heavily on finding and keeping a job."

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