Father Oliver Coss is a Small Heath vicar who sees the effects of deprivation every day. He is speaking at a Birmingham City University debate on child poverty this Friday…

My work leads me to some of the most deprived Birmingham residents in Small Heath.

I see families in poverty for multiple reasons. They can be recently arrived in the country, or experiencing problems with addiction or unemployment.

I also do work in schools and more is now being done to take away the stigma of poverty. It’s important to remember that children aren’t in themselves poor. They are growing up in households which are poor, and so what affects the parents will affect the children.

It’s not the children’s fault and they are the ones who are most vulnerable in these situations.

More needs to be done to tackle the rise in young people self-harming in the city.

Depression, self-harm and suicide rates in our young are personally devastating and we need a determined effort to raise awareness and find people who can champion the cause.

The statistics on child poverty are terrible, as is the evidence of poverty among the population of Birmingham, but with a combined effort these figures can be changed.

We must provide for the most precious group of people in Birmingham, by giving our children a new deal that will harness their hopes and aspirations.

The most vulnerable people have been failed in the past by services that are supposed to help, and so people became afraid the safety net isn’t there.

There are multiple factors at play but recent investment by Birmingham City Council in Children’s Services is addressing a history of failings in the past few years.

Where the cuts to services continue, we need groups from the third sector, from faith groups, and out in the community to step up so that people can take on roles previously fulfilled by the council.

We need to help these organisations take things on, by providing help on the ground. Enthusiasm isn’t enough. We need training so that enthusiasm is turned into aptitude.

The Child Poverty in Birmingham debate takes place in the Parkside Lecture Theatre, Millennium Point, Curzon Street on Friday 6.30pm – 9pm. Free tickets and more information are available at www.newsinbrum.com

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