Sefton childhood poverty conference hears how our surroundings growing up affect our future opportunities

25 January 2024 5 min read

Approaching 90 people, including representatives of charities, and community groups across Sefton attended the Council’s third Childhood Poverty Conference last week.

Opportunities and aspirations

Organised by the Council’s Public Health team, this latest event focused on the theme of Place and how our surroundings can affect our opportunities and aspirations. This includes the homes and neighbourhoods, in which we grow up, the local facilities available to us and the way our surroundings are developed in the future.

Opening the event, Cllr Ian Moncur, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing said the Child Poverty Strategy is a priority for the Authority and that real progress had been made over the last 12 months. But, he said, there is much more to do.

Impact on communities

Sefton Council Chief Executive Phil Porter said the work to combat child poverty involves drilling down and understanding its impact on local communities.

Next up was guest speaker Ruth Hussey who is former Chief Medical Officer for Wales, a Non-Executive Member for NHS Cheshire and Merseyside and High Sheriff of Merseyside.

Shaped as children

Dr Hussey talked about the importance of place and how we’re shaped as children by our experiences and environment.

Stephen Watson, Sefton’s Executive Director of Place, was next. Stephen, who leads transformational programmes including the Southport Town Deal and the future of Bootle Town Centre spoke about the importance of considering social value and the opinions of young people from the very beginning of projects.

National guidance

The final speaker was Michael Chang FRTPI, a chartered city planner working in a public health setting who has developed national guidance on planning for health and wellbeing for England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Michael spoke about how we can help to tackle poverty when it comes to our planning and physical spaces.

High levels of inequality

Childhood Poverty is a real problem in Sefton which has very high levels of inequality.

While five of Sefton’s neighbourhoods - four in Formby and one in Blundellsands - fall into the least deprived 5% of neighbourhoods nationally, 24 Sefton neighbourhoods fall into the most deprived 5% of neighbourhoods nationally.  Five of Sefton’s neighbourhoods – four in Linacre and one in Litherland – fall into the most deprived 1% of neighbourhoods nationally.

These inequalities were highlighted by the previous national social mobility scale, which ranged from 1 – the most socially mobile – to 533 – the least socially mobile. Sefton’s ratings on the scale were 95th place for Southport and 96th place for Sefton Central but 502nd place for Bootle.

National cost-of-living crisis

Around 8,000 (almost one in six) under 16s in Sefton were living in poverty when the Council’s Child Poverty Strategy was launched in 2022, a situation that had been exacerbated by the national cost-of-living crisis.

Through the Strategy, Sefton Council and its partners aim to reduce the level of poverty and time spent in poverty, minimise the harmful effects of poverty on educational achievement, health, and wellbeing now and later in life and prevent future poverty for today’s children and young people.

This week’s event was the Borough’s second Childhood Poverty Conference, following the launch of the Council’s Strategy. The previous event’s themes were around Prospects and maximising the opportunities for young people through education and employment.

Connected, accessible and inclusive

After the event, Cllr Ian Moncur said: “Today was another important stage in our work to tackle child poverty in Sefton and highlighted just how much our surroundings affect our development, our attitudes and expectations and, as a result, our opportunities.

“It is vital that moving forward we do all we can to ensure the places where young people live and spend their time are connected, accessible and inclusive spaces that support social cohesion, diversity and participation.

“They are the fundamental, universal things we all need to live well and thrive and I am glad we are making this a key element of our major schemes to revitalise areas such as Bootle and Southport.”

Positive feedback

Margaret Jones, Sefton Council’s Director of Public Health said: “Feedback received so far from last week’s event has been very positive and we will be sharing what we have learned with colleagues across Cheshire and Merseyside.

“As well as analysing the outcomes of this latest event in full we will also start planning the next one to ensure we can bring people back together, and maintain the momentum and profile of this important work.”

You can use this link to find out more about Seton Council's work to tackle Childhood Poverty.

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