2 Jun 2014

A panel of experts with more than 100 years’ experience has been assembled to find out why so many Birmingham children face disadvantages at school and at home.

They will lead a study to gather the views of children and young people – aged from as young as five all the way through to 18 – on what it is like to grow up in the city and how things can be improved.

The independent investigation, called the Birmingham Commission for Children, has been set up by leading charity The Children’s Society, and commissioned by Birmingham City Council.

It aims to discover how the city can improve children’s health and well-being. It is also designed to challenge and scrutinise the Council’s plans to develop new services to support children and young people.

Over the coming weeks the panel of five professionals – who between them have more than 100 years’ experience working to help children, young people and communities – will hold a number of hearings to seek evidence from politicians, doctors and teachers.

Members of the public can also contribute their views on what further support is needed to help give children a better start in life by visiting www.childrenssociety.org.uk/BirminghamCommission and completing a short online questionnaire by June 30. Their evidence will form a central part of the investigation.

Special efforts will be made, through focus groups and surveys, to hear the voices of children, youth groups, voluntary organisations and parents in the city, and to offer children and young people the opportunity to share thoughts, opinions and stories about their lives in Birmingham.

The Commission will be chaired by Janet Grauberg, a senior leader in public and social policy with experience across central and local government and the voluntary sector.

The first hearing is due to take place on June 11. Highlights of written and oral evidence to the Commission will be published at www.childrenssociety.org.uk/BirminghamCommission and a final report will be produced in the autumn.

The decision to set up the Commission comes against a backdrop of research that shows the health and well-being of children in Birmingham is generally worse than the England average, as are rates of infant mortality, family homelessness and obesity.

A survey by The Children’s Society found that nine in ten people in Birmingham underestimate the extent of poverty across the West Midlands. Over one-third put the number of children living in poverty in the West Midlands below 25,000, when the actual number is 175,000.

The 33.5% of children under 16 living in child poverty in Birmingham is worse than the England average.

Rob Willoughby, area director for The Children’s Society in the West Midlands, said: 'It’s unacceptable that so many children in Birmingham are struggling at school and at home. That’s why we have agreed to help Birmingham City Council hear the voices of children and parents as it plans the future of services for young children and school support, and to make sure that any changes reflect the needs and priorities of young people themselves.

'We want to use our policy experience and practical knowledge to help the effort in delivering brighter futures for children and young people.'

Janet Grauberg, Chair of the Birmingham Commission for Children, said: 'We will place the views and priorities of children at the heart of this Commission. But we also want to hear from anyone with an interest and a passion for improving the lives of children and young people across Birmingham over the coming years.'

Media enquiries

For more information please call The Children’s Society’s media team on 020 7841 4422 or email media@childrenssociety.org.uk. For out-of-hours enquiries please call 07810 796 508.

Notes to editors

  • The chair of the Commission, Janet Grauberg, is available for interview. Other Commissioners include Christine Davies CBE, Dr Angela Donkin, David Hughes and Jehangir Malik.
  • For more information about the Commission, visit: www.childrenssociety.org.uk/BirminghamCommission
  • Statistics on Birmingham children derived from provisional data from unpublished research by The Children’s Society, 2014.
  • Results from The Children’s Society’s survey on child poverty in the West Midlands (Feb-March 2014) are available here: www.childrenssociety.org.uk/west-midlands-survey (Powerpoint). The figure on perceptions of regional child poverty among Birmingham adults is derived from a breakdown of data from the survey.