The target is to eliminate child poverty by 2020 and legislation makes tackling child poverty a priority for all governments. The Child Poverty Act requires the Secretary of State, when setting the child poverty strategy, to consider which groups of children in the UK are disproportionately affected by socio-economic disadvantage, and to consider the likely impact of government policy on children in these groups. This will provide a mechanism to target children most at risk of poverty and will allow decisions to be made on the basis of whether they will help these children in the long term. Further reading : http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/why-end-child-poverty/child-poverty-act
A reality check is in order
Many crucial programmes that enabled over a million children to be lifted out of poverty over the period 1999-2009 have/are being dismantled forming part of savage, “austerity measures” introduced by the Tory government in 2010. UK wide major political parties are committed to extending and further increasing the aforementioned austerity programmes reducing state expenditure by £20-30billion. The brutal cuts forming part of the manifesto’s of the UK wide political parties will increase the numbers of children living in poverty by around one million over the lifetime of the next government.
But the Scot’s want a different approach
SNP policy rejects, “austerity” as the way forward giving favour to an expansion of the economy increasing the value of the state, better managing the balance of payments deficit and long term debt incurred at the time of the 2006-2008 financial crisis and the last five years of failed, “austerity” driven Tory party government which doubled to long term debt of the country.
Facts and figures don’t lie
* There are 3.5 million children living in poverty (households below average income) in the UK today. That’s 27 per cent of children, or more than one in four.
* There are even more serious concentrations of child poverty at a local level: in 100 local wards, for example, between 50 and 70 per cent of children are growing up in poverty. http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/why-end-child-poverty/poverty-in-your-area#map
* Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a family (households below average income) where at least one member works.
* People are poor for many reasons. But explanations which put poverty down to drug and alcohol dependency, family breakdown, poor parenting, or a culture of worklessness are not supported by the facts. Population estimates of problematic drug users in England who access DWP benefits, Department for Work and Pensions, 2008, suggest that 6.6 per cent of the total number of benefit claimants in England were problem drug users. While drug misuse may prove to be a key reason this group of people finds it hard to escape poverty, it clearly has no explanatory power for the other 93.4 per cent of claimants.
* Child poverty blights childhoods. Growing up in poverty (households below average income) means being cold, going hungry, not being able to join in activities with friends. For example, 61 per cent of families in the bottom income quintile would like, but cannot afford, to take their children on holiday for one week a year.
* Child poverty has long-lasting effects. By 16, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE than their wealthier peers. Leaving school with fewer qualifications translates into lower earnings over the course of a working life.
* Poverty is also related to more complicated health histories over the course of a lifetime, again influencing earnings as well as the overall quality – and indeed length – of life. Professionals live, on average, eight years longer than unskilled workers.7
* Child poverty imposes costs on broader society – estimated to be at least £29 billion a year.8 Governments forgo prospective revenues as well as commit themselves to providing services in the future if they fail to address child poverty in the here and now.
* Child poverty was reduced, (addressing major increases in the level of child poverty in the time of the Tory government), dramatically between 1998/9-2011/12 when 1.1 million children were lifted out of poverty (households below average income). This reduction is credited in large part to measures that increased the levels of lone parents working, as well as real and often significant increases in the level of benefits paid to families with children.
* Under current government policies, child poverty is projected to rise once more from 2012/13 with an expected 600,000 more children living in poverty by 2015/16.10 This upward trend is expected to continue with 4.7 million children projected to be living in poverty by 2020.
The full report on child poverty can be found at: http://www.cpag.org.uk/sites/default/files/CPAG-PovertyinScotland2014-sample-chapter.pdf
Spongers, down and outs, overweight and alcoholics
The denigration of people in poverty is not new. The state assumes de facto responsibility for the care of ‘paupers’, and the terms ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ are once more prevalent in the language of politicians. The divisive, self-justifying distinction between the workless, rogues, idlers and scroungers on the one hand and the hardworking, law-abiding, responsible, taxpayer has not. Recently poublished research highlights how recent welfare reforms continue the states’s long tradition of shaming people who live in poverty. http://www.cpag.org.uk/content/adding-shame-poverty-public-politicians-and-media
The Conservative manifesto 2010 – education of our children is paramount:
* We will improve standards for all pupils and close the attainment gap between the richest and poorest. (but there remains a fast growing gap between achievements in reading, maths and science between the richest and poorest students).
* We will enhance the prestige and quality of the teaching profession.
* We will give heads and teachers tough new powers of discipline. (but violence in the classroom is a serious and growing problem).
* We will restore rigour to the curriculum and exam system and give every parent access to a good school.
* We will improve our school system to world leadership standard. (but Britain has slipped further down the world leaguetable for student achievement).
* We will make opportunity more equal for all students and address our declining social mobility.
So how did they do?
Not at all good – Under the auspices of Michael Gove, (whatever happened to him?) and his successors teachers are still overworked, underpaid and underappreciated. Schooling is still beset with brainless standardization with which students are increasingly non-compliant. The depressingly constant undermining of teachers and their skills only serves to devalue the learning process. Teachers thrive in a listening not telling environment and society would do well to encourage politicians and the state to take a back seat allowing the teaching profession to improve the learning process elevating their skills and place in society.
Tory, Labour and other UK Parties have failed our children – underfunding, overcrowded classrooms, poor payment of teachers, inadequate financial resources to schools and low attendance all beset education.
How do our children compare with other nations?
A UN report this week named the UK as the worst place to grow up, and Holland the best. Why? – The Unicef team assessed six different areas: material well-being, health and safety educational well-being, family and peer relationships, behaviours and risks and the young people’s own perceptions of their well-being.
In the Netherlands, 73.2% of children found their peers “kind or helpful” – but in the UK only 43.3% felt the same. More than a third of Dutch children liked school “a lot” but in the UK this was less than 20%. 31% of UK children admit to having been drunk on one or two occasions. In the Netherlands it is 12.9%.
One child – Chloe, 14, has just finished posting leaflets through letterboxes. She is bright, with high aptitude test scores but she has enormous difficulties at school and has been excluded 14 times. She has to be on her best behaviour for the next eight weeks or she is out. Chloe swears a lot at the teachers and answers back and so gets put in isolation all the time, where she has to sit in a cubicle at a desk on her own for seven hours. Chloe hates that and runs off. “They focus more on punishment than on rewards,” she snorts. The police have been called to her parents house a few times when Chloe kicked off and once she was almost charged with domestic violence, though she got let off with a warning. Chloe’s mum, Michelle, 36, says her daughter was “paralytic” when she got to her. The family doctor said Chloe was just a spoiled brat acting up. He sent her to a therapist but she “kicked off” there too.
In Holland secondary school children wear what they want and they say this is why they are happier. There are 10 “golden rules of school”, including no bullying, using bad words or mobiles and smoking is only allowed in identified smoking areas in the playground. But very few children smoke.
Feedback from children believe it is this tolerance that stops them pushing too many boundaries. They say they are treated like adults and are allowed to grow in their less rigid environment. “In Holland, we are much more free,” explained one child, in England, you have uniforms and we get to do more things with clothes and make-up and express ourselves.” A friend 16 added: “No-one is alone here. Here everyone has friends and I think we’re a bit more helpful – we help each other out.”
rigid systems breed contempt
A poverty inquiry identified growing inequality in schools – The School-Wear Association, the body representing independent retailers which claims to clothe three-quarters of Britain’s schoolchildren, suggests it costs about £80 to kit out a state secondary school pupil with one new uniform set.
How does a low income family, struggling to pay rent, bills and food manage the cost? For an unemployed parent, it’s just not possible. Families in increasing numbers are turning to loan sharks and high credit lenders to ensure their children have suitable uniform and shoes so they do not suffer the stigma of standing out as poor. A typical parent response;
“I don’t know which schools the School-Wear Association looked at but £80 didn’t even cover half of what my daughters high school specified, and we don’t live in a wealthy area. The blazer alone cost £39, I cant remember the cost of the rest. The blouse and black trousers/skirt were the only items that could be generic, everything else had to be from named suppliers, including school sweatshirt, PE sweatshirt, PE T-shirt, PE tracksuit bottoms, tie, PE kit bag, even the PE socks had to be from the named supplier. Add school shoes, PE pumps, trainers for outside PE, two aprons (also specified supplier) for cookery and textiles. Contrast with when I was at school you could buy nearly ALL as generics, and even buy sew on logos for the blazers in some cases. Many children are ashamed of not having everything they need, or bullied because of it, which has a detrimental knock on effect on their confidence – and their education.” http://www.childrenscommission.org.uk/