The Bishop of Carlisle has supported young people who are gathering evidence on the reality of child poverty in the UK, as part of the first inquiry led by children.
The Children’s Commission on Poverty’s inquiry — supported by The Children’s Society — is focusing on the cost of attending school and its effect on children in poverty.
The Rt Rev James Newcome helped the young people question experts about the cost of going to school during a special session in Parliament.
Bishop James said: “I was incredibly impressed with the way that the young commissioners handled what is a complex and involved subject.
“Their questioning demonstrated great probity. There was a sense of real social conscience about supporting families in poverty to ensure everything is done that can be done to protect children's schooling.
“Education is a bedrock for our young people. It is essential that those families who are struggling should be afforded all the necessary help and support to ensure their children's education is not impeded.”
The Children's Commission follows on from the recently published Cumbria Welfare Reform Commission which considered the effects of current and proposed welfare reform and which Bishop James chaired.
The Children’s Commission on Poverty has questioned witnesses over three days (14, 16, and 17 July). It will investigate how struggling families manage to bear the costs of school essentials such as lunches, uniforms and basic materials, including text books and access to computers.
Cyrus, a young commissioner, aged 14, said: “We are holding an inquiry to try and find out the cost of things at school and the reasons for this. We want to achieve changes to help children living in poverty. So we invite you to tell us what you think and see in order to help us make changes.”
Matthew Reed, The Children’s Society’s Chief Executive, said: “We are grateful for the Bishop of Carlisle's support for the young people today and his commitment to ensuring children’s views are heard on this issue. The crisis of child poverty is growing, yet children’s views have been largely absent from the poverty debate. Children’s ability to benefit fully from their education is critical to their future. Yet too often, children in poverty are missing out because of the costs involved."
The Commission is also seeking written testimony as part of its inquiry from anyone concerned about this issue, including children and young people, parents and teachers and other school staff.
Evidence can be submitted via the online form on the Commission's website: http://childrenscommission.org.uk/submitting-evidence or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Commission is a unique opportunity for children to join forces and examine first-hand the stark realities facing thousands of families living below the poverty line. It comprises a panel of 15 children and teenagers from across England, ranging in age from 12 to 19, leading the Commission’s 18-month investigation into child poverty in the UK.
Through it, the children are being given a crucial platform to speak out about what poverty is really like and reveal and the day-to-day challenges they face through their own eyes.
The proportion of children in poverty in the UK has nearly doubled in the last 30 years with 3.7 million children living in poverty across the country. Nearly two-thirds are in low-income working families.
The Commission is investigating the financial and emotional effects that the costs of school life have on children and their families. This includes the extent to which children and young people in poverty are – or feel – excluded from important areas of school life as well as how they are treated by fellow pupils, teachers and other school staff.
The evidence, oral and written, gathered during the inquiry will be analysed by the young commissioners who will publish the findings and recommendations this autumn so decision-makers listen to the voices of children.