Councillor Arooj Shah is Deputy leader of Oldham Council and the portfolio holder for a new cabinet post, Covid 19 recovery, which as part of its remit is looking to tackle poverty and unemployment.
She has responded to a thought provoking report by poverty charity Turn2Us that states fifty per cent of children in parts of Oldham are living in poverty and up to half of all families are living below the poverty line in Greater Manchester’s worst-hit areas - with the coronavirus outbreak a factor.
Councillor Shah says: “While the accuracy of this 50% figure needs verifying, we are very aware that there are too many children in Oldham who are living below the poverty line, the results of many years of financial cuts by central government.
“Before Covid 19 we had started to work with schools to pilot an innovative poverty proofing project, to identify, from the perspective of children and young people, how they experience poverty every day. The aim is to remove the stigma associated with poverty and flag any areas where more support may be available schools, families and for individual children.
“The Council is also a key partner in a national pilot project to explore how local emergency crisis support can be better co-ordinated to ensure that our most vulnerable and disadvantaged people do not fall through the welfare safety net.
“The Coronavirus pandemic has increased the pressure on many vulnerable families to put food on the table and it is the duty of all of us to try and help those most in need.
“The way Oldham Council has responded to support residents during this crisis has been fantastic and we have seen what can be achieved when residents, volunteers and local businesses come together to help vulnerable people.
“The steps we are taking to tackle the pandemic aim to support our residents, especially our most vulnerable communities who are often most impacted, but we can’t do this alone. All our partners and communities have a role to play. That’s why we have recently established an Equality Advisory Group which I Chair, made up of partners and community representatives, to help provide insight and expertise, helping us capture the voice of lived community experience in our COVID-19 response and recovery planning.
“We want to build on this and the next step is so important – Rebuilding our businesses and local communities, ensuring our youngsters have regular meals and a great education and making Oldham a great place to live."