Child poverty in the uk
Definition of child poverty
Statistics of child poverty in the UK
Causes of child poverty in the UK
Effects of CP on children,parents and society
The implications of CP on social work and what is the role of a social workerto
Child Poverty in the United Kingdom
Millions of people across the globe are caught up in a perpetual poverty trap. To break this ominous cycle, governments, economic policy makers, and other stakeholders prescribe various approaches aimed at reducing child poverty and deprivation. Child poverty, simply defined, is systemic deprivation of children or any member of society which directly or otherwise reduces children’s access to social, physiological, and psychological wellbeing (Biggeri & Mehrotra, 2011). According to the Child Poverty Strategic Plan 2016 -2018 published in 2018, an estimated 600 million children world over face extreme poverty and deprivation. This paper discusses child poverty in the United Kingdom (UK), its causes and effects, possible solutions, and its roles and implications on social work. Subsequent discourse considers child poverty as potent threat to the economic future of the UK, and considers its eradication imperative in economic growth strategy.
Whereas the UK economy has improved tremendously since 2013, bringing with it positive conferments such as high employment rates, rise in childcare centers by 17%, and relative improvement in educational achievement and involvement of children from poverty-stricken backgrounds from the 2012-2013 financial year, available data also suggests a dreary future as far as eradication of child poverty is concerned (Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 2014). According to a Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission Report of 2014, the number of children subjected to absolute poverty among working parents rose by 600,000 from the year 2010. Another indicator of rising child poverty was revealed from enrolment data from the Russell Group universities, where the number of students from both state-schools and working class backgrounds has fallen by 4500 in three years (Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 2014). Budgetary cuts by the government, expected to remain in place till 2020, will inevitably make the poor children’s lot tougher. Prevalence of single parenthood is also common as the Child Poverty Commission Report suggests 21% to 44% (Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 2014). Deductively, parents tend to divorce as children as grow older, further consigning them to lower standards of living. Further, child poverty is expressed through number of repeat teen offenders which increased from 32% to 38% in 2014 (Levitas, 2012; Child Poverty Commission Report, 2018). The authors also point that figures for both relative and absolute poverty as a percentage of inflation remained fairly static at 28% and 20% respectively during the period 2008 to 2014. Further still, the percentage of children classified as ‘materially deprived” increased by 2.2% between 2011and 2013.
The intricacies of child poverty render its causes difficult to pinpoint. However, several policy makers and stakeholders are in agreement as to the key contributors to child poverty. According to Sir Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister, single mother phenomenon is single most important agent of child poverty. In his book Out of wedlock into school: combating child marriage through education, Brown (2012) bemoans the demeaning “out of wedlock” tag that torments fatherless children and the associated social stigma that keeps them out of school. A lack of quality education inferentially transforms poor children into poverty-stricken adults. Experts also attribute child poverty to wrong decisions on important matters such as education, early marriages, and work. Such decisions invariably compromise a child’s capacity to attain quality education, elevates risk of drug abuse, and other undesirable concomitants. According to the North East Child Poverty Commission report (2013), the prevailing economic climate also bears significantly on the household economy. For instance, changing trends in the UK have bequeathed its citizens of an increasingly elitist economy. Such is the state of the economy in critical areas as education and health. Privatization of the economy has had the net effect of putting affordable quality education and healthcare beyond the reach of common folks, thereby widening the poverty gap (North East Child Poverty Commission Report, 2013). Similarly, the quintessential UK economy is characterized by inequitable distribution of education opportunities and good paying jobs. Existing labor laws, designed to raise the minimum wage, have also proved counterproductive in battling child poverty. Certain policy formulations, such as the childcare policy which raised the cost of childcare to unreasonably high figures, have discouraged single mothers from taking up job offers as they cannot afford to pay child caregivers (North East Child Poverty Commission Report, 2013). Finally, child poverty has been compounded by a disproportionate growth in income by the rich at the expense of the poor. The widening income disparity in the UK was observed in the period 1979 to1997 when the conservative party was in power. Incidentally, the economic policies of the ruling party gave tax incentives to top echelons of the UK society raising the poverty gap from 13% to 29% in the period under review (North East Child Poverty Commission Report, 2013)
Child poverty has serious ramifications on a country’s social, economic and political wellbeing. For instance, high cost of education systematically profiles children as poor. In the foregoing delirium, affected children are pushed to the fringes of the country’s economic and social life (North East Child Poverty Commission Report, 2014). The children are bullied, stigmatized and isolated as a result. Secondly, it has been stated in sociological discourse that poverty begets poverty, and the children of poor parents end up being poor. Poverty also denies children from poor backgrounds the luxury of good physical health. As parents are “walled in” by rising cost of living and falling wages, their children suffer malnutrition from poor diet and limited dietary choices (North East Child Poverty Commission Report, 2014). The effects of child poverty not only affect children but their parents and caregivers as well. Rising debt, a common phenomenon among struggling households radiate anxiety, stress disorders, and mental health issues. Additionally, such parents may become hypertensive and susceptible to stroke. Parents also feel the brunt of cuts to social welfare programs such as four year freeze on benefits, adjustments on the universal credit work allowances, two child limits as precondition for tax credits and universal credit (North East Child Poverty Commission Report, 2014). These adjustments pile additional financial pressure on parents and caregivers. The North East Child Poverty Commission Report (2014) also identifies other effects of child poverty on both parents and children as low self-esteem, low self-worth, below par performance in school, difficulty in acquiring jobs later in adulthood, social stigma, profiling and bullying at school. Society stands to suffer from the economic effects of child poverty as it leads to high dependency ratio, low GDP per capita, and increased spending on social welfare programs.
The economic implications of child poverty are far-reaching and require concerted action from stakeholders (Levitas, 2012). Several propositions from Child Poverty Strategic Plan 2016-2018 are considered as possible solutions to the problem of child poverty. First, child sensitive social protection should be instituted in underprivileged families by enhancing capacity of parents and caregivers to meet children’s needs. According to the Child Poverty Strategic Plan 2016-2018, is intended to increase survival rate for some 50% of poor children who would otherwise not survive to their fifth birthday. Inevitably, economic empowerment of parents and caregivers will enable them to extend the best possible protection, education and care to children. Capacity of would-be parents should also be enhanced through advocacy. This approach should target young girls by promoting behavior change behavior change so as to promote Planned Parenthood. Additionally, caregivers should be helped to embrace pro-child use resource utilization approaches so as to secure their children’s future. Secondly, child sensitive social protection initiatives should be promoted in poor families. This approach is informed by research data which shows that poor families spend up to 70% of their earnings on food alone (Child Poverty Strategic Plan, 2016-2018). Consequently, children from poor families will not access education and healthcare, effectively diminishing their chances of survival. Thus, interventions which aim at achieving food security, basic healthcare, and crisis responses are necessary to insulate children from the clutches of poverty. Third, it is important to target prospective adults by implementing Adolescents Skills for Successful Transitions (ASST) programme. In the UK, research shows that children of adolescent mothers have a 50% risk of dying young compared to children of older mothers (Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 2014). The ASST is thus targeted at young mothers and fathers to equip them with vocational skills, professional associations, and attitudes necessary for reintegration into the labor force. Further, poverty eradication initiatives should focus on policy advocacy on child poverty. This should be attained by defining metrics for measurement and indexing of poverty. Child Poverty Strategic Plan 2016-2018 singles out poverty measurement as a primary indicator of a “willingness” to tackle poverty. At this stage, it is necessary to bring stakeholders together to aid policy formulation aimed at monitoring and evaluating poverty eradication programs. The aim is to develop implementable action plans for fighting poverty in all its facets.
Social work as a profession is effected via routine interaction with marginalized groups. Operational aspects of the job typically involve risk assessment of vulnerable groups to ascertain their level of crisis preparedness, and advocacy for behavior change (Social Workers role, 2017). Other roles include promotion of community development initiatives achieved through analysis of needs, planning, coordination of various stakeholders, and community implementation panels. Additionally, social workers equip the community with income generating skills, prudent utilization of resources in their locales, and when necessary, they call for social action to address urgent social, environmental and economic issues, particularly those that cause social exclusion (Social Workers role, 2017).
The intricate nature of social work has profoundly altered the dynamics of social work. Social work as a profession should be adequately “malleable” to confront myriad challenges associated with child poverty (Social Workers role, 2017). As a result, the contemporary social worker has to adapt to various needs in the respective work environment. In one instant, one is a community social worker, in another; he/she is a palliative social worker. At other instances, he/she serves as a criminal justice social worker, and in yet another, engaged in policy, and research.
Conclusively, the United Kingdom has to address child poverty to secure its economy. An attempt has been made in the foregoing discussion to elucidate the widespread effects of child poverty on the child, the parent, and society. Evidently, child poverty perpetuates economic decline which it assiduously passes on to the next generation. Thus, its eradication must be prioritized for the UK to maintain a healthy and robust economy.
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Biggeri, M., & Mehrotra, S. (2011). Child poverty as capability deprivation: How to choose domains of child well-being and poverty. In Children and the capability approach (pp. 46-75). Palgrave Macmillan, London.
Brown, G. (2012). Out of wedlock into school: combating child marriage through education.
Child Poverty Strategic Plan 2016-2018. (2018, July 03). Retrieved from https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/library/child-poverty-strategic-plan-2016-2018
Levitas, R. (2012). Utopia calling: eradicating child poverty in the United Kingdom and beyond. Global child poverty and well-being, 449.
North East Child Poverty Commission. (2013). What Causes Child Poverty? Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://www.nechildpoverty.org.uk/what-causes-child-poverty
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Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission. (2014). State of the nation 2014: Social mobility and child poverty in Great Britain.
Social Workers’ Role in Combating Global Poverty. (2017, December 04). Retrieved December 18, 2018, from https://borgenproject.org/social-workers-role-combating-global-poverty/