Opinion: Be ambitious for London – end child poverty, improve child wellbeing

 

While you know London has a booming economy, and is a centre of job and wealth creation, the largest city of one of the world’s largest economies, you may be less aware of the issue of child poverty; it is also a city where significant numbers (over six hundred thousand children, around two fifths of the total) grow up in poverty.

As a political party we need to continue to become more well known for committing to improving children’s lives in our capital and I believe that by drawing attention to this issue we will improve life for all. The present situation has developed, persisted and augmented on the watch of successive London Mayors, whether Labour, Conservative or sometime independent. As a matter of strategic importance to London, there is no question that the issue is the responsibility of the Mayor.

In one of the boroughs with the highest levels of child poverty a mother asked me to visit the overcrowded accommodation which ensured that her children rarely had a decent night’s sleep, another asked me to see vermin infested premises where for the best part of a decade a child suffering from allergies suffered breathing difficulties while the issue was resolved and another showed a poorly insulated property where condensation led to damp and the growth of mould on walls triggering ill health.

While those mothers may have been pleased with help for their families as a result of their own persistence, it is by no means certain that all would get help as they did over the course of years, though not doing so blights lives of the young and their families alike.

As secretary of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, I ask you to pay attention to a report from the Greater London Authority informing us that poverty is around double amongst the BAME groups listed (Pakistani and Bangladeshi, Black non-Caribbean and Chinese or Other) than that among the group categorised “White”. I ask whether this further challenge would be being addressed with greater focus, energy and success if London’s elected representatives better reflected the diversity of London’s population.

Every child needs a decent night’s sleep, reasonable nutrition, exercise or leisure in an environment in which they are safe and secure and feel so too, and attention from their main carers who will take responsibility for their wellbeing. All too often they live in conditions and in financial circumstances where one or more of these is unattainable to their family; yet, in addition to education, this is the minimum that one of the world’s largest economies should enable for the children in its capital city.

We in London must settle for nothing less than an approach where we consider leaving no stone unturned to improve the conditions in which London’s young live following the pragmatic do-what-works approach.

As Liberal Democrats we have a record of fighting child poverty whether in our constitution, our manifesto or as elected representatives; it is time to accelerate our actions, to amplify their effects,  to increase their number and to ceaselessly remind every politician, whoever they are, that this is the strategic issue on which at least two fifths of London’s children will judge us in future.

My grandparents, parents and my own family have, over almost ninety years, spent their whole working lives and retirements with their families in London because it is a wonderful place to live. We need to continue ensure that is so for all of our youngest residents.

You know as I do that in a city where 100 of Europe’s 500 largest companies have their headquarters we can address our ability to supply the basic needs of children and families in our local communities and as Liberal Democrats, we must.

* Marisha Ray is vice-chair of Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and PPC for Chipping Barnet, in north London. From 2002 to 2010 Marisha was a councillor in an inner London ward, and she was a London Assembly list candidate in 2012 and 2016.

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4 Comments

  • Sammy O'Neill 8th Jun '15 - 1:37pm

    Few points on this article:

    1. I’m not sure why race has really been bought into the article and I’ll be honest, I felt uneasy reading that particular paragraph. The reality is that in the poorest boroughs in London the “White British” (self identifying on census forms) population has for the most part totally left. In Newham they make up 16.7% of the population, Brent 18% and in the vast majority of others boroughs they are now a minority. It is therefore not surprising that those remaining are disproportionately wealthy compared to those around them, as they will disproportionately either be elderly (who are most likely to own their own home/have substantial assets/no children) or City workers looking for good transport links. We must avoid the dangerous (and fallacious) narrative/suggestion that London’s poverty problems can just be attributed to racism. It is far more complicated than that.

    2. The Lib Dems need a coherent housing policy to take to the country. We didn’t have one at the last election and if we’re to really have a hope in London going forward we need to desperately address this.

    3. Social housing in London is a very difficult issue to get right without alienating a large part of the electorate. If measures were introduced to assist those in overcrowded accommodation or to increase the amount spent on social housing, the substantial proportion of London residents nursing massive mortgages or who are not ever going to be eligible for housing support will kick off. We can all see the headlines now in a few of the newspapers about how someone with 6 kids lives in a property a City lawyer on £150,000 could never hope to buy. That sort of situation is incredibly toxic if we wish to avoid people turning even more against the concept of the welfare state.

  • If you wish to reinforce the already embedded negative view that Liberal Democrats are simply Metrocrats, who’s only interest is in pouring yet more money and resources into an already overheated ‘gated’ London and the South East,… then congrats,.. with this article, you’ve definitely added to the view for voters outside of London,..that you think nothing much matters?

  • R Uduwerage-Perera 8th Jun '15 - 10:32pm

    Marisha,

    Well said!

    Although housing is a national problem, I feel that you are right with the 2016 Assembly and Mayor elections looming to highlight these matters about London. I would be interested to hear what the concerns are elsewhere, and specifically in Wales and Scotland that will also be suffering from yet further protracted elections, which if we have some descent policies, we could claw back some interest in our Party.

    Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
    Chair – Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jun '15 - 10:07am

    John Dunn

    If you wish to reinforce the already embedded negative view that Liberal Democrats are simply Metrocrats, who’s only interest is in pouring yet more money and resources into an already overheated ‘gated’ London and the South East

    I think the article here is challenging that misassumption. Maybe northerners do feel that the streets of London are paved with gold and everyone living in London and the south-east is some highly-paid banker or similar elite type. Well, if they think that way, they are wrong.

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