Poverty is the greatest threat to the well being of children, it can affect every area of a child’s development social, educational and personal. There are currently 3. 8 million children living in poverty in the UK according to (Barnardos 2011). The UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world. For this essay I am going to examine the characteristics of children who live in poverty and discuss how living in poverty circumstances can affect a child’s life in health and education.
I will also discuss what actions are being taken by social policy to resolve child poverty. Within my essay I will explore what is influencing child poverty, the affects of child poverty on the children and their families, the government’s responses and finally what has to be done to minimise child poverty. Since the 1990’s the UK government have identified people in poverty as being those living in households whose disposable income fell below a certain percentage of average household incomes.
There are various social, economic and demographic factors that affect the likelihood of children experiencing poverty. Families with children make up 53 per cent of those in income poverty. Some children such as those in the lone parent households, from workless families and many from ethic minority families, are more at a risk of income poverty than others. According to Gabrielle Preston (2005), a child has only a 3% risk of poverty if living in a two parent family where both parents work. However, where neither parent works, this risk of being in poverty rises sharply to 74%.
According to the HBAI (2001) children are more likely to live in households in receipt of means tested benefits, such as income support. Disabled children or those children with a disable parent were much more likely to experience poverty, live in unsuitable housing and suffer exclusion from public and community services. Children growing up in low income households are more likely than others to have poor health, to do badly at school, become teenage mothers and fathers or come into early contact with the police, to be unemployed as adults or to earn lower wages quoted by the HM Treasury (2002).
Poverty can have many affects on children such as poor health, child development and education disadvantage. Inability to afford essentials like food means a poor diet which can lead to a poor diet. Children living in households receiving income support are at a risk of a poor diet and hunger. According to the National statistics office (2002), one in five non-working families on low or moderate incomes reported being unable to afford some basic food items on most days in 2001. Children and young people living in poverty can have their mental well being affected.
It is more likely to occur when their parents are unemployed, divorced or heading to lone parents. This can lead to self harm and attempted suicide. Furthermore some children may be at a risk of abuse or neglect as there is a link between poverty and the physical abuse and neglect of children. It may be that poor families are more easily detected by social welfare agencies. Poor physical environment also effects children’s well being. Children living in deprived areas are five times more likely to be killed in road accidents.
This is because they are more likely to be pedestrians and less likely to have access to a safe play area or garden. Child development can also affected for children living in poverty, they can experience low birth weight and shorter height are both more commonly found in deprived areas. According to the End Child Poverty Organization Poor children are born too small; birth weight is on average 130 grams lower in children from social. Low birth weight is closely associated with infant death and chronic diseases in later life. Poverty shapes children’s development.
Before reaching his or her second birthday, a child from a poorer family is already more likely to show a lower level of attainment than a child from a better-off family. By the age of six a less able child from a rich family is likely to have overtaken an able child born into a poor family. Poverty can also have effects on a child’s intellectual development, from as early as 22 months children of parents in high social classes with higher educational levels are already 14 percentage points higher up the scale of educational development than children of lower social classes with parents with low educational attainment.
Recent strategies like Sure Start programmes and children centre’s aim to promote the development of young children. Although funding has increased in deprived areas, availability remains an issue. According to the UK National Statistics Publication there are 600,000 children under three living in income poverty and only 42,740 free or subsided places for disadvantaged families. Educational disadvantage is another key issue that affects children living in poverty. The links between poverty, social class and poor educational attainment are strong.
A child’s educational can be affected as early as before primary school. Goretti Horgan (2009) discussed in her journal article the impact of poverty on young children’s experiences of school. According to Goretti (2009) children in the more disadvantaged schools were more likely to say that school is important for negative reasons. In the article all children were asked what the best thing is and worst thing about school, this question produced interesting results it showed a clear difference from advantaged and disadvantage children.
In advantage schools children recognised and appreciated that they learnt better because teachers were trying to make learning interesting and fun. In most of the disadvantage schools there were many compliments such as the nature of the school, the quality of food, glass on the playground and attitudes of teachers. They also complained about being shouted at; Goretti also discusses that they are many pressures for teachers working in disadvantage schools they deal with welfare issues, hungry children and behavioural problems have an effect on teachers.
According to …… children growing up in poverty are more likely to expect to leave school at sixteen, this factor decreases the chance of receiving high grade GCSE’s. Also nearly 90 per cent of failing schools are located in deprived areas and have a large proportion of children eligible for free school meals. Children in poverty not only are educationally disadvantaged by missing out on school activities but also socially disadvantaged. They are excluded from taken part in everyday opportunities and experiences shared by their peers in school because of their poverty.
Tess Ridge (2004) states that from her recent research examining poverty from a Childs perspective that children living in households receiving low income means tested benefits having different experiences at school to their non benefit peers. In 1999 the Prime Minster of England, new labours Tony Blair gave the Beveridge Lecture at Oxford University. He set out his historic aim “Ours is the first generation to end child poverty forever, and it will take a generation. It’s a 20-year mission, but I believe it can be done. Tony Blair asserted child poverty would be eradicated by 2020; halved by 2010; and cut by a quarter by 2004. The eradication of child poverty was a much stated ambition of the New Labours Government in 1997. In addition to tax and benefit changes designed to raise the income of poorer families, more innovative polices had been introduced to tackle the current and future of children in poverty. Early years learning schemes were set up such as Sure Start, they provided free part time early education for three to four year olds in deprived areas.
This was central to the governments anti poverty agenda. This aim was to give access to children’s centre’s services to the deprived so that they could receive early education, in addition to family health services. However this scheme has been criticised in 2003 having failing to reach two thirds of the children in poverty who live outside the twenty per sent targeted area in the UK. They tried to extend the children centre’s to reach thirty per cent of the deprived areas instead of the twenty per cent but the government rejected these recommendations in October 2003.
Another initiative aimed at secondary school age children, was the education maintenance allowance in September 2004. The EMA provided weekly financial support of up to ?30 a week, depending on the parental income for 16-19 year olds who went into further education. The EMA gave additionally bonuses of ?100 for attendance and achievement. This had the effect of encouraging young people from poorer backgrounds to continue in further education and achieve success.
In January 2011 the government eradicated the EMA initiative due to the spending cuts within the UK Government. Donald Hirsch (2006) presented his findings on what changes will be needed for the Government to achieve its target of ending child poverty by 2020. Hirsch’s study included modelling work co-ordinated by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, which estimated the future effect of existing policies, and new policies, needed to reach government targets.
Hirsch stated that for the Government to reach its goal to end child poverty by 2020, they will need to extend its policy of increasing redistribution to low-income families, but that this will not be enough on its own to meet the targets. In addition, this will require parents to fare better in the workplace, with improved pay and opportunities. Long-term policies working in this direction include better education and training for disadvantaged groups, improved childcare and the promotion of equal pay for women.
In conclusion, child poverty has many characteristics and circumstances on the children that live in poverty. Children have a higher risk of living in poverty if they live without a working parent, lone parents, with a young mother, minority ethnic families, and large families or have a disabled or long term sick parent or sibling. There are major circumstances on children who live in child poverty as they have to face the stigma of being poor and have greater risks of, ill health, poor development and low educational attainment.
From the research that I have found I believe that poverty can follow a child into adulthood, inhibiting aspirations and leading to under achievement and educational and employment disadvantage. As a result of the government wanting to eradicate child poverty by 2020 they will need to tackle both the immediate and longer term effects of childhood deprivation immediately as more children are entering the poverty line with the recent economic climate in today’s society.