Peabody’s Executive Director for Community Investment, Stephen Burns, discusses our continuing work to understand and alleviate child poverty in our communities.

Stephen Burns

Peabody has been fighting poverty since 1862 and it remains a key focus for us today. In the 16 years that I have been at Peabody we have identified poor education, low skills and lack of opportunity as key barriers to inclusion. Our response has been to help over 50,000 Londoners access a range of support including training and employment activities, wellbeing programmes, citizenship and educational activities for young people, volunteering opportunities, digital and financial inclusion services and support for vulnerable families.

I believe that tackling poverty means understanding it and recognising that a comprehensive and long-term approach is needed to address the complex reasons why people experience long term poverty. Following on from some work we did with the University of York to understand poverty in our neighbourhoods, we are in the early stages of creating a Children’s Community, initially working with residents on our Pembury estate in Hackney. The Children’s Community is based on the successful Harlem Children’s Zone programme in New York. We are working closely with London Borough of Hackney and others to:

  • Increase the number of residents in employment, education and training
  • Improve educational outcomes through additional support and closer links with schools
  • Increase the supply of affordable childcare, including after-school and holiday provision
  • Ensure debt and financial advice is available

This kind of project has never been more important. Four in 10 London children live in poverty and the social and economic costs are estimated to be around £26bn each year. This is likely to increase to over £30bn by 2020 as a million more children fall into poverty by the end of the decade.

We believe the key to success is partnership working. No organisation can lift children out of poverty alone. Through collaboration and the pooling of knowledge and resources we know that progress can be made, even in times like these, with public money reducing and people in our communities struggling with the cost of living.

To this end we are holding a series of seminars, bringing together experts and practitioners from the public, private, voluntary and community sectors to discuss best practice and to explore how together we can meet the huge challenge of alleviating child poverty in our communities.  

The first Peabody Activate Roundtable took place on 4 April and focused on how we can help to increase the income of women with children in poverty. Three main interlinked themes emerged:

  • Lack of affordable and flexible childcare
  • Pervasive in-work poverty and lack of salary progression
  • Educational attainment and skills gap

Our partnership approach at Pembury is geared towards tackling these issues. At our new development on the estate we are investing £500k to double the size of a local nursery. This will increase their capacity and reduce their costs. In return the nursery will create an additional 46 places for Pembury children and prioritise children from the estate on their waiting list.

We are also working closely with the nursery to develop breakfast clubs and after-school provision for children on the estate. We are supporting informal networks of parents, inviting them to meet one another at family fun days, running parenting courses, and funding a crèche. A group of residents are also running informal ‘stay and play’ and homework clubs in the estate hall.

This activity will help more parents into a job or college course and will provide a good quality, early years, learning environment for their children. This is what I mean by successful partnership working at local level to achieve greater impact.

To learn more about our work at Pembury, our wider community investment programmes or to get involved in the Peabody Activate Roundtables, please email me at stephen.burns@peabody.org.uk