Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Below is the press release for last week's excellent and valuable Narrowing the Gap event at the Town Hall where individuals, groups in the voluntary sector, churches, businesses and representatives of political parties met to discuss a way forward in narrowing the gap in Education, Health, Housing and Employment. At the Education Forum there was a firm commitment to prioritise focussing on ethnic groups such as African Caribbean children and white working class boys on pupil premium to ensure they do not fall behind other groups of children. Reading has prioritised children qualifying for the pupil premium in the school admissions policy and there is a scrutiny by councillors on best practice in narrowing the gap involving groups of children, including children on special educational needs.

Reading Working Together to Help Narrow The Gap

Reading Borough Council Press Release
COMMUNITY and voluntary groups, organisations, businesses and individuals came together at the Town Hall tonight (18th Nov) to join the Council in helping to find new ways of ‘Narrowing the Gap’ in Reading.
Nearly 200 participants attended Reading Borough Council’s community event, which this year focused on the theme of narrowing the gaps which continue to exist in the town.
People at the community event heard that whilst Reading – like many places in the south-east – had good levels of prosperity, the gap between those who were well-off and those who were on low incomes was getting bigger. Examples in Reading include a 700% rise in homelessness since 2009 -as property prices continue to soar and private rents become increasingly unaffordable - 10% of households living in fuel poverty, and the high number of children living in poverty in the town.
Doctor Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of the Local Government Information Unit, gave a keynote address at the event on the challenges of the economic divide. He told the Narrowing the Gap audience of the day-to-day reality of people struggling to make ends meet and that poverty meant many people were ‘trapped in a cycle of ill health.’
Dr Carr-West said that while local Council’s like Reading were at the frontline of tackling poverty, the only way to really address the problem was by working together with community groups and organisations across the town. He said: “When it comes to narrowing the gap, I believe there is a huge amount local Government can do. There is even more we can do if we all do it together.”
Reading Borough Council Leader Jo Lovelock said:
“The gap between those people in Reading who are well off and those on low incomes continues to grow year on year. This is not just about levels of prosperity though, it is about the very real knock on effect on people’s lives in areas like housing, education and health.
“Reading has had to suffer sustained cuts in the funding it receives from Government and we are also dealing with a huge increase in demand for our services. We are nevertheless determined to focus our resources on making sure nobody is left behind. We hope that some of the actions which came out of tonight’s event can go some way towards achieving that.
“As always, we are very grateful to the great many community groups and individuals who come together every year to make these community events such a success.”
The Narrowing the Gap event featured a series of market place of stalls and discussion groups on the key themes of health, education, housing, care, neighbourhoods and employment. Participants were then asked to come up with outcomes for each of their groups. They were:
Health: Build on our assets; identify under-utilised resources; and make them available to the broader community / Invest in helping people to make informed choices and information sharing about opportunities.
Education: Success in education requires us all to play a part - schools, communities, families, practitioners and pupils. We need to come together more often / Holding high aspirations for every pupil is essential. Some parents find it difficult to express it - as a community we have to find a way to help them.
Housing: Build more homes in an innovative way / Better links with landlords and other agencies to raise awareness of homelessness prevention services and to identify the risk of homelessness
Care: Promote the wide range of opportunities to get involved in services which reduce loneliness / Improve information sharing and coordination between services so that people can be connected to the right support
Neighbourhoods: Provide support and practical skills on how best to organise in neighbourhoods / Identifying innovative ways to involve adults in their neighbourhoods through their children and schools and through other routes.
Employment: Deliver a joined-up process that is client-centred with the right help at the right time where information is shared and communicated consistently / Engage small, medium and micro businesses to develop best practice examples in training and upskilling of staff, and then sharing through peer-to- peer mentoring.

An action plan will be pulled together as a result of the Narrowing the Gap conference and the outcomes identified.

Notes for Editors:
For photos of the Narrowing the Gap event please call Reading Borough Council Press Office on 0118 937 2301.
Reading Borough Council Press Releases can be found online at http://www.reading.gov.uk/news/pressreleases/

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