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Press Release: Election Assembly 25th of April

500 Birmingham Citizens gather to ask Mayoral and Police + Crime Commissioner candidates to make pledges to fight child poverty in the region.

On the 25th of April Birmingham Citizens will host the largest civil society assembly of the year that addresses pressing issues affecting children and young people living in West Midlands and ask the frontrunners for the region’s next Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioner to make specific pledges on its priorities for housing, employment, and safety.

At this private event of its membership, young people & community leaders from across the region will share their lived experiences with the candidates. For example, set to speak are families grappling with the instability of temporary housing and poor living conditions, young people struggling to break into the job market, parents trying to secure English classes & work and communities dealing with the ever-present threat of youth violence and hate.

Lots of people in a room clapping with hands raised in the air

The assembly will also spotlight the efforts of local heroes like Tahani, a 17-year-old juggling the challenges of finding work experience and living in temporary accommodation, alongside Meena, a charity worker, trying to support parents struggling to find entry level job opportunities that pay the real living wage, because of their low English language ability and skills.

Birmingham Citizens is not just highlighting problems but is also putting forward concrete policy recommendations. These include building family homes for social and affordable rent, establishing a Good Landlord's Charter, building an ambitious coalition of organisations to support people into work, and developing long-term area action plans to combat youth violence.

The assembly is a testament to the power of community organising by students, teachers, lecturers, clergy, trade union members, community workers & local business owners from member organisations of Birmingham Citizens, all campaigning together to fight child poverty in the region.

Discussing housing, Tahani Al-Kharef, a young leader said “Our family has been in the city’s homeless system being moved from B&Bs to temporary accommodation at least 4 times over the past 4 years. My younger siblings do not know a life different to growing up homeless.” she went on to say “Most homes built in Birmingham will not benefit us, as hardly any are for social rent... So this evening, we need you, if you are the next Mayor of the West Midlands, to actually pledge you will build social rent family homes urgently. I do not want to stand in front of you again at the next election, still in homeless accommodation.”

On the issue of finding work: Taher Gadiwala, Vice President for Communities of Aston Students’ Union said “Nobody, regardless of whether or not they’re a student, should be working day and night to scrape by and still not be earning enough to pay the rent and put food on the table.”

Ela McSorley, Executive Principal of Ark Victoria Academy said “Our school strives to improve the life chances of all those within our community, because we know that when the community thrives, so do the children. Unfortunately, in schools across the country, we've seen a rise in discriminatory attitudes, both on and off line, negatively affecting the ambition and mental health of staff and pupils. At Ark Victoria we work with a range of organisations to provide support to our students and staff, to ensure all feel safe within our community.”

Yasin Erkul, a youth worker at Dream Chasers Youth club in Small Heath said “As a Youth worker, I am fed up with focusing on the problems, we all know what the problems are. The young people we work with want solutions. I want solutions.”


About Birmingham Citizens

Birmingham Citizens, part of community organizing charity Citizens UK, has spent the last decade campaigning on issues of social justice, including housing justice, living wages, and community safety. Through the power of collective action, Birmingham Citizens aims to bring about real change and improve the lives of those in the West Midlands and beyond.

Further information and basis for candidate invitations: West Midlands Accountability Assembly 2024 - Citizens UK

Headline statistics:

1) More than two in every five kids in the West Midlands are growing up in poverty - with rates of deprivation surging over recent years, depressing research by Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found. Birmingham and parts of the Black Country have some of the worst child poverty rates in the UK.

2) There are 12,590 homeless children across the West Midlands. 9,405 of these children are living in temporary accommodation in Birmingham, the largest figure of any city outside of London.

3) 600+ households become homeless every week in Birmingham, up from 200 in 2021.

4) One in three of Birmingham City Council homes do not meet the decent homes standard.

5) Around 1 in 10 adults in the region have no formal qualifications, while just three-fifths are qualified to at least level 3, as a result, many businesses report skills shortages with around half of all vacancies classed as hard to fill and 35% vacant.

6) Young people are finding it harder to move into the labour market. Employment and earnings outcomes are poorer for women, disabled people and some ethnic minorities, in turn, this can result in even poorer health outcomes.

7) Birmingham accounts for 55% of all knife crime incidents in the region and the West Midlands has the 3rd highest rate of hate crime offences in the country

Posted by Tom Snape on 24 Apr, 2024