Why Should We Care About Child Poverty in the Uk?

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Why Should We Care about Child Poverty in the UK?
Poverty is a disease often associated with Third World and developing countries, where the outcome is often death from starvation or disease. Although this extreme form of poverty is rarely seen in the UK, there is a more discreet form of poverty which is taking hold at home in the UK; one which can be attributed to having less money and lower living standards than others in the same society (European Anti-Poverty Network, 2009). Child poverty is a direct result of adult poverty (Poverties.org, 2011-2012) however unlike an adult, experiencing poverty as a child can have lifelong consequences. In April 2011, there were 13 million people in the UK living below the poverty line, including 3.6 million children (Department for Work and Pensions, 2011), and those numbers are projected to rise further (Child Poverty action Group, 2000-2012). This kind of poverty does not discriminate between individuals, families or groups of people. Inadequate resources are compensated by cold hard cash shrouding the wider issue of the lack of human and social capital (Child Poverty Action Group, 2000-2012).

It is a strange paradox that children themselves are a major contributing factor to their own poverty. When a child is born, a family’s income is spread further.  At a time when income is needed most, parents face the difficult decision of whether to return to work or to stay at home; either having negative consequences on the family budget in terms of of higher expenses or less income. Some parents will be supported by the welfare system however the current system of increasing benefits by inflation is causing a relative drop in benefit levels when compared to average earnings. The UK experiences a higher proportion of its population in relative low income than most other EU countries (The Poverty site, 2013) and the recent announcement of a 1% increase cap on some benefits will only make inequality in the UK worse. In the 2012 report entitled Born Equal, Save the Children suggest the difference between rich and poor is vast, and that inequality is a major contributory factor in relative poverty, further evidenced in research undertaken by professor Richard Wilkinson at the University of Nottingham, where a wide differential in wealth is linked to undesirable outcomes.

Child poverty affects societies both directly and indirectly. The impact of poverty affects whole communities though increased taxes, negative effects on the economy, and a strain on public services.  A 2008 report by published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found that a child subjected to poverty in childhood is more likely to suffer health problems from birth and acquire health issues as they mature. In the same report Griggs and Walker link low income with health issues which are caused by poorer housing and fewer safe places to play. Maternal health however has also been shown to impact on child health; it thrives by transcending generations like beggarly bacteria from mother to child. The longer term impact of child poverty can be seen in the form of increased risk of physical and mental health issues in adulthood as well as shortened life expectancy (Griggs, 2008). In addition, illness can become the cause of poverty; a relationship which becomes bi-directional as the poverty is also detrimental to health (Griggs, 2008).  The consequences are also seen in educational outcomes which further impact employment prospects.  The education attainment gap is evident as young as 2 years old and the gap widens throughout compulsory education so that poverty ridden children are 6 times more likely to leave school without qualifications (Griggs & Walker, 2008) resulting in a lower skilled workforce, which translates into lower earnings over the course of a lifetime. Even those in work are more likely to have unskilled jobs and be poorly paid in adult life (Griggs & Walker, 2008).

In order to tackle...
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