Posted: 28 August 2013

Heating or eating? - Looking at childhood poverty in Bradford

As part of our policy and influencing work, we work to bridge the gap between families, practitioners and the government. Ideally, this gives those making the decisions information and ideas about how best to tackle child poverty.

In 2010 the government made a commitment to end child poverty by 2020. The Child Poverty Unit (CPU) helps to achieve this by bringing together the relevant government departments to develop a new Child Poverty Strategy every three years.

Recently the CPU have been visiting some of our projects to understand the experiences of children and families facing serious hardship, and engage with practitioners working around the clock to provide support to families and children.

After a visit to our New Londoners project, the CPU visited our Gateway and Mortimer House children’s centres in Bradford earlier this month.

The front of our Mortimer House children's centreUnderstanding our children's centres in Bradford

The Gateway children’s centre and nursery is positioned in the heart of the Ravenscliff community, one of the most disadvantaged in the region, with currently 30% of children living in poverty.

As an integrated project, Gateway provides education and support not just to children but also parents. For example, staff offer courses, training and parenting programmes that often lead to qualifications.

Opened in 2006, Mortimer House provides a lifeline to the most vulnerable families in the Bradford Moor area. The community faces high levels of deprivation, disability, obesity and infant mortality.

We met with the family support team, which offers outreach support, positive parenting programmes and activities to all families in our reach area. We had the privilege of meeting the fatherhood team, which offers support and activities to fathers/male carers and additional support to fathers who have children with disabilities.

a knitted tree illustrating different types of support for families

Families facing crisis

Programme managers at Gateway and Mortimer told us of the rising numbers of working poor, people held back by zero-hours contracts, poorly paid and part-time work.

The manager at the Gateway centre spoke of a noticeable spike in the levels of poverty in Ravenscliff over the last couple of years.  Increasing levels debt and changes to the welfare system such as benefit sanctions have triggered a growing demand for financial advice and support.

As vulnerable families continue to be hit the hardest, there has been a frightening and well documented demand for crisis support, most notably, food bank referrals.

We heard stories of parents skipping meals in order to provide for their families and children regularly coming to the nursery hungry, having not had breakfast.

Our research shows that currently 2800 children in Bradford East live in poverty and miss out on free school meals. Many of the children visiting the centre at Gateway are underweight.

Many disadvantaged families now must choose between eating or heating.

Living in poverty

A problem identified by the centres and mirrored across England is a lack of affordable and decent housing.

We heard of children suffering from respiratory problems, as poor insulation and damp harm children and families’ health. This is often a result of living in older housing that needs to be maintained.

After this visit, we are working to continue to keep this dialogue between frontline staff and the government open, to influence how the Child Poverty Strategy takes place and ensure it is effective.


More photos from Bradford

This display illustrates different levels of support for children in our Bradford children's centres

a board illustrating different ways to listen to children

Our knitted tree in our Ravenscroft children's centre illustrates different levels of support available to families.

knitted tree


Learn more

Find out about our children's centres across the country

Read about our policy work supporting disadvantaged families

By Jasmine Mitchell - Policy team

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