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Birmingham’s Children: A Tale of Two Cities - Book Review

Posted: April 23 2024

Social Work student & staff projects, Social Work
Social Work student & staff projects, Social Work

Interested in Social Work and want to learn more about the subject? The book reviews written by our Social Work students and staff help you identify the best literature to advance your learning.

This week:

  • Title: Birmingham's Children: A Tale of Two Cities
  • Author: Eddie O’Hara
  • ISBN: 9781803132310
  • Publication: Matador, 2022, 70 pages
  • Reviewed by: Tola Ogundare, MSc Social Work student
  • First published online in the Journal of Social Work
Book Cover of Birmingham's Children

The tale of two cities is about Birmingham’s children and the contrast between children living in poverty and prosperity. The book is written by Eddie O’Hara, who is a registered social worker and a qualified primary school teacher. He manages a charitable service that supports families in schools. The book was inspired by Eddie’s work with a first-time mother and is directed at all children living in Birmingham.

O’Hara presents various statistics to illustrate the varying circumstances of children living in Birmingham, ranging from poverty to prosperity. O’Hara highlights the growing number of children living in poverty, despite the city’s increasing wealth. Birmingham boasts a large population of children, surpassing that of other cities in the UK, and the proportion of disadvantaged children continues to rise. On the one hand, children from affluent families have access to high-quality education and cultural resources through public schools. On the other hand, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds attend under-resourced schools. Additionally, children from privileged families benefit from private medical care, including a wide range of clinics and hospitals. In contrast, children from less privileged families are more likely to experience obesity by the age of 16 and overall poorer health.

According to O’Hara, “32–54% of our own children living in poverty, 3 out of 10 live in the UK’s poorest neighbourhoods.” (p. xvi). O’Hara found that in 2010 Birmingham council spent £584 million on children in social care, whereas in 2021 Birmingham council spent only £203 million on children in social care, which is a 73% cut spent on vulnerable children living in Birmingham. Furthermore, O’Hara analyses the positives and negatives of children living in poverty vs children who are living in wealth, as part of the middle class.

The book references social work services disregarding children in poverty as children in need. O’Hara was motivated to create a charity campaign named All Birmingham Children (ABC). This campaign supports the children in poverty living in the Birmingham community. The campaign was presented to make the numbers of children living in poverty known to the community and social services, to promote awareness of the problem and possible solutions. O’Hara examines the key issues in social work, as the number of children living in poverty has been increasing over the years and change has still not been implemented, which led to the ABC campaign. According to Turner (2020), the increase in poverty has created challenges for social workers to support families dealing with changes in their lives due to poverty. This is because families are unable to afford travel fees to attend appointments or are unable to attend due to irregular work patterns caused by insecure employment. This demonstrates the challenges social workers experience in prioritizing children living in poverty (Turner, 2020).

O’Hara launched the ABC campaign with a group of local children, parents, and a range of professionals. O’Hara’s campaign’s goal is to ensure that individuals, including professionals, children and families living in Birmingham, understand and recognize the significance of living in poverty and its consequences and are united in looking for ways to alleviate it. Additionally, O’Hara and his colleagues are working to make Birmingham one of the safest cities and provide equal opportunities for children and young people living and growing up in the city so they can fulfil their full potential. Furthermore, O’Hara demonstrated an understanding of the behaviour of those in positions of power, such as the heads of local authorities, who were very self-centred and contributed to social issues within society. From a social work perspective, O’Hara stated that the statutory services provided by the local council are unable to meet the needs of vulnerable children due to a lack of funding resulting from recent government cuts.

O’Hara’s introduction to the book engaged me, in which he introduces himself and his wife’s love for Birmingham, and the fact that their own children are attending the same school that they did. Initially, the statistics used helped me understand the city. However, midway through the book, the many figures made me slightly confused and lose some interest. When O’Hara explained how the ABC campaign started, I was intrigued because I have a passion for supporting children and young people and being able to make a difference in their lives. In other words, reading about the ABC campaign and what it is about, its objective, and the outcome gave me motivation and empowerment in my own future profession as a social worker. I felt compassion for the children living in Birmingham. Reading further into the start-up of the campaign, I developed empathy for the children and young people living in poverty and the limited resources, support, and care they are receiving.

From my perspective, the book would benefit from using fewer figures and statistics. O’Hara wrote the book based on his personal experience as a social worker, which began with inspiration from a first-time mother facing challenges and led to discussions about similar challenges other parents may face with raising their children. Overall, the book concluded effectively, ending with positive statements for all individuals who helped, supported, and made positive contributions to the ABC campaign. This point is essential to acknowledge the individuals who achieved the campaign, so that they are credited for their work and to make it known to others reading the book. O’Hara directed a statement to promote the book to Birmingham councilors, members of parliament, and other stakeholders. One great aspect is that the book provided a summary of the author’s personal life, which highlighted great points about his social work profession and family.

In conclusion, the book was an excellent read and is recommended for those interested in children and young people and how they navigate and survive in society. It is also suitable for those interested in social work and who are motivated to make a difference in the lives of children, young people, and families. Overall, the book is recommended for students, health and social care professionals, and service users.


Turner, A. (2020). Social workers feel ‘powerless’ in face of poverty afflicting families [online]. Community Care. Retrieved November 18, 2023, from

2020/08/05/social-workers-feel-powerless-face-poverty-afflicting-families-involved-services/ (n.d.). Allbirminghamschildren [online]. Retrieved November 20, 2023, from