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NY project inspires scheme in Solihull

11 April 2014

HARLEM CHILDREN'S ZONE

Promising: Kiara Molina, a student at the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) Promise Academy, introduces Barack Obama at a White House press conference where he announced the United States' first five Promise Zones, based on the HCZ model, in January 

Promising: Kiara Molina, a student at the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) Promise Academy, introduces Barack Obama at a White House press confere...

A GROUND-BREAKING anti-poverty project in one of the toughest neighbourhoods in New York is the inspiration for a new scheme to help deprived children and families in the West Midlands.

The Children's Society has announced that it will launch a Children and Family Zone in northern Solihull, near Birmingham, modelled on the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), in New York.

The HCZ was started in the 1990s, and sought to provide pre-school support, education, health care, crime-prevention advice, and help with college and careers to poor children from birth until university at 18.

It has been praised by President Obama, and the US government launched its "Promise Neighbourhood" programme in 2010 in an attempt to replicate its success across the country.

In a statement, the Children's Society said that its new zone would include after-school clubs, parenting programmes, support for drug addicts, debt advice, and help for teenagers.

The area director of the Children's Society, Rob Willoughby, said: "By creating a Children and Family Zone in north Solihull we can bring the remarkable success of Harlem to one of the most deprived areas of the country. We want to make sure families can get the skills and support they need to be more independent and help their children thrive."

The society said that 175,000 children were living in povertyin the West Midlands, and, of the seven local authorities in theregion, three had more than 30 per cent of children below the poverty line.

In one northern ward of Solihull, the percentage of children in poverty reached 39.9 per cent in 2010. The charity also said that it had the backing of the commun-ity in this endeavour - a survey had suggested that 76 per cent of Solihull residents supported theidea of a Children and FamilyZone.

The chief executive of the Children's Society, Matthew Reed, said: "By working together with services across the region, from within the heart of the poorest areas, we can put an end to children being trapped in the destructive cycle of poverty. Poverty and neglect are not foregone conclusions. Together we can help make them a thing of the past."

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