Written evidence from the Shaw Trust submission (CPM0004)


1.             Introduction

1.1         Shaw Trust believes in the right of every person in the United Kingdom to live a decent and dignified life through good employment. We are a charity that seeks to improve life chances through employment for people who face social and economic challenges, or who may also be disabled or have complex needs.

2.             Introduction and recommendations

2.1         Shaw Trust believes any approach to tackle child poverty should have supporting people into good employment at its heart. We want to end generational unemployment and the root causes of that, and we want to progress access to good work that will lift families out of poverty. We advocate for, and deliver, a child to career approach, recognising that access to good employment - especially for those disadvantaged by disability and/or social, economic and health inequalities - is critically dependent on what happens in people’s formative years and on providing continuity of support through life’s transitions. It is only by taking a child to career approach that child poverty can be sustainably reduced.

2.2         It is clear that a child’s economic circumstances are predominantly linked to the circumstances of their parents. Taking this into account, we would reaffirm the need for any child poverty strategy to be in reality a poverty reduction strategy that cuts across government departments and addresses the suite of issues that can impact or relate to child poverty. It is only by taking a holistic approach, with the dual components of early intervention and effective placed based social infrastructure in-built, that we will be able to increase social mobility, allow more people an opportunity to reach their potential and sustainably reduce child poverty.

2.3         The levers Government has, and must use, to ensure child poverty is reduced can be broadly categorised into those which will impact child poverty levels in the short, medium and long term.

2.4         In this submission we make a number of recommendations including:

3.             Employment

3.1         Employment remains one of the main determinants of poverty 76% of children in workless households are in poverty (compared to 24% where someone is working in the household)[1].

3.2         However, it also must be recognised that employment is not always a route out of poverty. Three million children are still in poverty despite being in a working household[2]. A combination of low earnings (be that few hours due to insecure work or a low wage) and high housing costs are the primary drivers preventing work being a route of out of poverty. JRF’s Poverty Report shows before Covid, 14.5 million people in the UK were caught up in poverty, equating to more than one in five people[3].  The report notes that child poverty and in-work poverty had been on the rise for several years. Additionally, many of the groups likely to be pulled into poverty are those that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

3.3         With unemployment rates rising, and set to rise further, as a result of the pandemic[4] it is essential that we ensure people are being supported into good employment[5] rather than any employment. The temptation, with unemployment numbers rising might be for policy makers to focus purely on job entry, and an ‘any job will do’ approach. This must not happen. The UK’s labour market recovery from the 2008 recession was highly successful in terms of high employment levels. Yet, it was less successful in regards to tackling in-work poverty and productivity. We should learn from this recovery and build back better by maintaining a focus on job quality in sectors at the heart of our future economy, for example green and care jobs. To do this while require resilient active labour market policies which allow for holistic tailored employment support, a focus on giving people the opportunity to re-skill and retrain into sustainable career pathways, and the government to be pro-active in boosting weaker local economies to bring more good jobs in key industries to the places they’re most needed[6].  To meet government goals of ‘building back better’, ‘levelling up’ and reducing child poverty we must make sure good work is the primary route out of poverty for those that can work.

3.4         Research by the Resolution Foundation shows that workers in sectors most adversely affected by the pandemic have been reluctant to look for work in other sectors[7].  In addition, it was estimated pre-pandemic, that 40% of the workforce did not have appropriate qualifications/skills for their job, and this is set to increase significantly by 2030[8]. Reform estimates that a further 200,000 workers may have to change career due to the employment fall out from Covid-19[9]. Employment and skills providers have a major role to play, in partnership with government (local and national), employers and other stakeholders to ensure people are supported into the right job and gain the skills which allow them to progress in work. This may require new approaches, for example, Shaw Trust are working on a prototype with NESTA to use their ‘career causeway tool’ to help jobseekers recognise jobs at higher risk of automation and utilise the tool to identify the transferable skills they have which they could bring to adjacent and growing sectors[10].

3.5         If we do not invest in retraining, upskilling, lifelong learning and reskilling people in the aftermath of the pandemic we will simply be pushing labour market problems down the line, and with it the chance of sustainable progress in addressing child poverty.

3.6         As JRF’s Poverty Report notes there are sectors that have especially high rates of in-work poverty in them, such as accommodation and food services, sectors which have also been disproportionally impacted by Covid-19[11]. As well as supporting those unemployed into new sectors, it also important that the quality of work in these sectors is improved. The planned Employment Bill has the opportunity to legislate on this front, and we are supportive of ideas to drive up work standards on a sector by sector basis through the creation of sectoral strategies which bring together employers, employees and wider stakeholders to address issues in the sector, share best practice and drive up standards[12].

3.7         Hand in hand with the employment and skills support outlined, must be a sufficient welfare safety net which effectively reduces poverty and hardship. A fit for purpose welfare safety net is an essential ingredient to preventing child poverty both through financial support but also by preventing people experiencing hardships which we know reduce their employment prospects. Welfare changes are the most immediate lever government has to help alleviate child poverty in the short term. Organisations including JRF and the Trussell Trust have done vital research and campaigning work which we support on the welfare safety net, in particular on the impact removing the UC uplift will have on poverty levels[13].

4.             Lone parents

4.1         To make significant indents into child poverty numbers it important that support is targeted at areas where there are the highest levels of child poverty, including areas of Birmingham, London and Newcastle[14]. Additionally, we know that children living in poverty are disproportionately from lone parent families (44%)[15]

4.2         Through our Work and Health Programme provision we have supported over 3,000 lone parents, around 11% of our caseload. Our delivery experience highlights a lack of an additional salary, childcare costs, caring responsibilities preventing access to fulltime work and housing costs are some of the major challenges lone parents face in regards to their employment prospects. We also know the pandemic has created further challenges for lone parents (90% are female) in relation to their labour market prospects, with lone parents having used all their leave due to childcare commitments and in many cases having to leave work because of this[16].

4.3         The Resolution Foundation’s report Feel Poor, Work More argues that pre-Covid rises in employment has been driven by people feeling poorer, due predominantly to suppressed wage growth over the last decade meaning household incomes remained low[17]. The report suggests a response from households has been to shield family finances from the depth of such earnings reductions by increasing the number of workers or working more hours. This ties in with the growth in employment of women pre-pandemic – particularly those in couples (the employment rate of coupled mothers increased by over 5 percentage points over the past decade)[18].These labour market factors are particularly pertinent in regards to lone parents who may find their singular wage is not enough to lift them and their family out of poverty.

4.4         A focus group we ran with low paid working mothers in London, found that perhaps the principal barrier for women progressing in work is caring responsibilities, with the lack of affordable childcare being the primary reason. Focus group participants spoke about having no time to work more hours because of childcare commitments, and not being able to undertake additional training due to caring responsibilities. Additionally, the cost of family responsibilities was also raised, with some focus group participants saying all their wages were going on their children’s needs, including transport and shopping. Many of the conclusions of the Work and Pensions Committee’s inquiry into UC and childcare costs remain relevant, and it is clear that solving issues with childcare support in the current system can be key component to supporting lone parents into work thus bringing about a plethora of positive outcomes for families, wider society and the economy[19].

4.5         Many current DWP employment programmes do not necessarily specialise, or ensure there is a priority focus on targeting support at groups such as lone parents who we know getting into work will make a significant impact in reducing child poverty. While having programmes specifically focused on one group such as lone parents can lead to negative stigma, and it is important not to ensure that lone parents are not viewed as a homogenous group with the same challenges[20], we think that a series of small, geographically targeted and specialist programmes that meet regional needs could be a vital step forward in supporting to lone parents into work and reducing child poverty.

5.             Child to career approach

5.1         Shaw Trust deliver, and advocate for a child to career approach, to support young people during the years in which the greatest difference can be made to their life chances. Our child to career approach aims to ensure people’s basic human needs are fulfilled so the people we support are able to learn, maximise their potential and find good employment.  We want to end generational unemployment by tackling the root causes of it and this is why the services we deliver help people across all life stages with the intention of creating wide-ranging positive longitudinal outcomes for them, their community and wider society.

5.2         Our services include a Multi-Academy Trust with both special and mainstream schools, Children and Families services which work with thousands of children and young people, including the most vulnerable children helping them to build the skills they need for the future, Homes2Inspire Ltd, a Children’s homes provider and we also deliver learning and skills programmes across England which develops and provides a wide range of advanced learner loans, apprenticeships and traineeships.

5.3         The social, educational, health and economic impacts of the pandemic on children and young people and their life chances have been widely documented[21]/[22]. Major issues include the drastic drop in apprenticeship starts, attainment gaps widening for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds plus the state of a child’s life at home being even more important with everyone spending more time at home[23]. Our own focus group research with young people on our programmes aligns with much of the wider external literature, in particular highlighting the impact the pandemic is having on young people’s mental health and career aspirations. The Government’s educational catch up recovery plans are of course going to be crucial to offsetting the impact of the pandemic.

5.4         The pandemic impacts are heightened for young people due to the scarring impact that economic crises tend to have on young people’s career prospects[24]. This means dedicated place based social infrastructure and wider support for children and young people must be at the heart of any strategy to reduce child poverty in the long term. It is only by increasing social mobility and allowing everyone an opportunity to reach their potential that we will sustainably reduce child poverty.

5.5         It is our view that ‘preventative’ support should be available even earlier, especially for those people we know are likely to have their life chances hindered by the situation into which they are born. As the Social Mobility Commissions the long shadow of deprivation report makes clear: equality in educational outcomes does not equate to equality of earning potential and career progression where place-based deprivation persists[25]. Knowing this is the case, intervention and support should be available as far upstream as possible.

5.6         It is important that specifics cohorts of children are getting the support required. For example, our experience as a children homes provider exposes the particular challenges children entering the care system may face. This includes educational under achievement; young people in our homes often come to us having missed a lot of school meaning they struggle with literacy and numeracy, attributes essential to employment prospects[26]. Taking into account the centricity of English and Maths to a child’s life chances, we think the government should prioritise driving a step change in literacy and numeracy support for children who need this support most post-Covid.

5.7         33% of our young people in our homes have EHC Plans. They are more likely to be unemployed than our young people with no EHC Plans. There must be a continued policy focus in ensuring traineeships, supported internships and Kickstart opportunities are accessible to care leavers and other young disadvantaged people. A failure to do will widen the inequalities already present between children and young people.

5.8         Most of our young people attend alternative provision (AP) (62%) rather than mainstream school. APs can be fantastic (smaller class sizes, more pastoral support) but need further funding to upskill their academic and vocational offer. Across our provision, we are seeing an upsurge in mainstream schools excluding disadvantaged young people. This is worrying trend with severe potential knock-on impacts both in the short and longer term. We would recommend the Committee join up with the Education Committee to look further into this issue and the impacts it is having on young people’s life chances.

6.             Departmental join up

6.1         The factors which impact child poverty span government departments as do the policy levers available to tackle child poverty. As we outline in this submission, to tackle child poverty you cannot solely focus on supporting children nor can you just focus on supporting parents of children in low income or workless households. Both and more is required. Hence why any strategy to reduce child poverty must really be a poverty strategy taking into account all circumstances across life stages. Any such strategy will require government departments to work together more effectively than is currently the case.

6.2         As a starting point, given that Shaw Trust’s provision range across a ‘child to career’ approach, we would very much welcome better join up between education, learning and skills, careers advice, employment and in work progression support. Skills and employment programmes and funding streams should be streamlined and marshalled together, with on and off ramps to learning and training, at any stage of people’s work and career journeys. To achieve this, there needs to be flexibility and join up between DWP and DfE programmes, to facilitate the move between employment support and learning throughout working lives. To break down silos and the divides between skills and employment, we think there is merit in Education and Skills Funding Agency commissioned services (with the exception of colleges) moving to the DWP.  A more natural split between the departments would be for vocational skills to sit with the DWP, and for the DfE to have responsibility for higher education and level 4 and above qualifications. In the changing labour market impacted by both long term trends and the fallout from the pandemic, where up/re-skilling and re-training will be essential throughout working lives, this will help create more coherent pathways, and provision on and off ramps, for learners and jobseekers, with an end result of ensuring people end up in meaningful career pathways which will help sustainably reduce child poverty.

6.3         We think the Government should also consider more radical approaches to achieving better outcomes and reducing poverty. Rather than Departments Commissioning services, predominantly as individual entities, we think a new model could be considered, one in which the overarching goal for society is the starting point, (for example to reduce child poverty) and Departments would then be able to submit joint bids on how they intend to work together to achieve this outcome. Key pillars built into this approach would need to be taking a preventative approach, co-creation of the proposed services with the people they would support, and a mechanism to ensure services can be devolved to local communities so the needs specific to any locality are addressed.  We would be very happy to discuss our suggested framework and how this could work in more detail with the Committee.


February 21




[1] Measuring-Poverty-2020-Web.pdf (socialmetricscommission.org.uk)

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47734733

[3] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2020-21

[4] https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/plan-for-jobs

[5] https://www.thersa.org/reports/blueprint-good-work

[6] https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/reports/child-poverty/work-should-free-more-families-from-poverty-heres-how-we-achieve-it/

[7] https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/jobs-jobs-jobs/

[8] https://industrialstrategycouncil.org/sites/default/files/UK%20Skills%20Mismatch%202030%20-%20Research%20Paper.pdf

[9] https://reform.uk/research/when-furlough-has-stop-next-steps-avert-long-term-unemployment

[10] https://www.nesta.org.uk/project/mapping-career-causeways/

[11] https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2020-21

[12] https://www.thersa.org/globalassets/pdfs/reports/good-work-taylor-review-into-modern-working-practices.pdf

[13] https://www.trusselltrust.org/2021/02/08/the-real-impact-of-removing-the-universal-credit-uplift/

[14] http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/child-poverty-in-your-area-201415-201819/

[15] https://cpag.org.uk/child-poverty/child-poverty-facts-and-figures

[16] https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/feb/09/uk-risks-turning-clock-back-on-gender-equality-in-pandemic?utm_term=Autofeed&CMP=twt_gu&utm_medium&utm_source=Twitter#Echobox=1612829653

[17] https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/feel-poor-work-more/

[18] https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/publications/feel-poor-work-more/

[19] https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmworpen/2078/207802.htm

[20] For example, the majority of lone parents on Work and Health Programme have a disability

[21] https://www.msn.com/en-gb/news/uknews/report-shows-struggles-of-disadvantaged-pupils-in-lockdown/ar-BB1du0zr?ocid=spartan-ntp-feeds

[22] https://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/15291

[23] https://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/reports/child-poverty/learning-the-lessons-from-previous-recessions-focus-on-families/

[24] https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/press-releases/corona-crisis-could-increase-youth-unemployment-by-600000-this-year-and-scar-young-peoples-prospects-for-far-longer/

[25] https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-long-shadow-of-deprivation-differences-in-opportunities

[26] https://impetus.org.uk/assets/publications/Research-Briefing-9-The-impact-of-English-and-maths.pdf