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Poverty

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A report focussing on poverty with reference to current policy and educational debate

1.0 Abstract
This report aims to explain the effects of poverty on attainment in schools and the wider society: taking into consideration a number of national and local strategies, the causes of poverty and the long term effects on children and young adults. This report will also make recommendations as to what can be done to further reduce poverty in childhood. 2.0 Introduction
Poverty is continually discussed at parliamentary level, the national agenda drives local agendas and delivery differs from one local authority to another. Within this report the poverty line set by the government will be discussed, and with reference to the 20/20 campaign, the intentions by the government to reduce child poverty by 2020 in response to The Child Poverty Act (2010).

Poverty is measured in a number of ways (Poverty.org, 2007): absolute poverty whereby a family lives on less than £x amount per day, a figure that includes every country in the world, which when you consider the levels of poverty in most of the third world countries, the view that the UK does not register absolute poverty is a fair assumption. Relative poverty whereby a family lives on a daily income of a percentage less than the national average (Poverty.org, 2007) is more observable in the UK due to the amount of people unemployed, 2.645 million as at March 2012.

Pugh (2001) makes reference to the government’s “over-riding policy commitment to reducing the number of children living below or on the poverty line” and suggests that alongside the 2020 campaign that this is achievable if it is clear what poverty is, what causes poverty, what causes child poverty in the UK, what will happen if child poverty is not tackled and with the current policies in place how can these help to reach the goals?

Although the government state that ending child poverty is the aim and the responsibility of everyone, it is also their responsibility to ensure that everyone understands the positive outcomes that will be reached once child poverty is ended. The continuous cycle of deprivation that occurs when a child is brought up within a society where they cannot afford basic essentials needed to sustain growth, be healthy, stay safe, make a positive contribution and achieve economic wellbeing are well documented. Neurological research has proven that families living in poverty are less able to ensure that children receive suitable and necessary cognitive stimulation and therefore may not reach their potential thus reducing their expectations and ability to move out of poverty (Families and Work Institute, 1996).

3.0 Policy context

In 2002 the UN General Assembly met to discuss the agenda for ‘A world fit for children’ and the 180 nations represented set the agenda highlighting 21 specific goals and targets to eradicate child poverty over the course of a decade (Appendix 1). The nations involved took away an agenda and prepared to meet the targets set.

3.1 Every Child Matters
Another national strategy to end childhood poverty is the ‘Every Child Matters’ programme whereby the five outcomes stated, one of which is ‘achieve economic wellbeing’ is to aim to reduce the number of children living in workless households and subsequently improve their standard of living. However the term ‘wellbeing’ is contentious in that depending on which part of the country a child lives the standard of living may differ from that of a child from another area, and what might be observed as living in a affluent area to one person may not be perceived to be the same by another.

3.2 The 20/20 campaign
The aims of the UN General Assembly are to end child poverty. A number of organisations have become involved in a bid to end child poverty, most notably Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Save the Children and Barnardos. When you consider the ‘Chicken and the Egg’ idea (CPAG, 2007) unless children are given an equal chance, they will become the next generation of parents without the necessary skills, or benefits to give their own children a chance and unless tackling poverty and social gaps in educational outcomes happens the cycle continues.

3.3 Local initiatives
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council is piloting an initiative called ‘Think Family’ (2011) which aims to work with families that demonstrate that they have the means to improve their lives. The ambition is that the resilience and resourcefulness of families within the borough will increase and neighbourhood engagement will be enhanced so as to improve outcomes for the families. The approach to ‘Think Family’ came about to challenge existing systems and processes and trial new ways of working with families who demonstrate multiple complex needs and where traditional models of intervention have not realised a sustained or long-term change (www.blackburn.gov.uk, 2011). An advocate will be responsible for supporting the family for as long as it takes to ensure that they become self sustainable and that long term changes are to the benefit of the family. Throughout a six week ‘therapeutic course’ the advocate will support the family, prepare a plan and give support to implement the plan. Within the ‘Think Family’ approach is a side project called ‘Troubled Families’ and to identify a troubled family there is criteria which they must meet. The ideology behind the project is to prepare children for school, assist parents or carers back to work, offer financial support to families who cannot afford a number of basic requirements, including food and clothes, thus ending the continuous cycle of poverty and deprivation that affects generations.

4.0 The effects of poverty on education and attainment

Families living in deprived areas may find it harder to afford childcare, and as suggested by the Department of Education (2001) the time in a child’s life that is most important for a child to develop emotionally, physically and cognitively is between birth and three years old. Considering the Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (Taggart, 2006), where the age range of 3 to 7 is identified as the key developmental period in a child’s life, case studies were carried out to monitor the intellectual and social progression of children receiving some form of pre-school education. As the benefits were clear to see, the introduction of the free flexible entitlement for 3 and 4 year olds was made. The government has since introduced a similar scheme for 2 year olds that require specialist support (www.education.gov, 2011) to allow them to receive quality childcare from settings with Ofsted ratings of good or higher.

A child living in poverty may not be accessing childcare and subsequently affecting their development and this impacts heavily on their future school life. Major concerns are that children are not receiving enough nourishment and therefore concentration levels are reduced and so do the standards of education they receive, not due to the teaching but due to the fact that what they are being taught are not registering with them.

When nursery is finished and the child is preparing for school, the pre-school profiling system (Blackburn.gov.uk, 2010) allocates to the school where the child will attend, the skills and abilities at which the child can perform. Due to either not receiving appropriate childcare, or not performing well and showing signs of inadequate knowledge, the child may be placed in a class where they are not ready. This in turn hinders their performance and setbacks occur. Parental involvement is also critical to the development of the child, in that children from poorer backgrounds often perform less well than children from better off backgrounds. It is also noted that children from poorer backgrounds are far more likely to meet with peers from similar backgrounds to a higher level than those from richer backgrounds (www.poverty.gov, 2011).

5.0 Measures to counteract poverty
To counteract poverty and to raise attainment in children, the government, including preceding governments introduced children’s centres. For children 0-5 the aim is to provide all services under one roof and to ensure that children have the ‘best possible start to life’ (Education.gov, 2006). The services offered at children’s centres range from midwifery services, childcare, job clubs; to benefit the parents to try to ensure they are not living in poverty and family support amongst others.

5.1 Sure Start children’s centres
The ethos behind ‘Sure Start’ was that within the most deprived areas of local authorities within the UK, centres would be built to provide a service to those most in need. The children’s centres were expected to forge excellent relationships with local schools, businesses and would enable the communities to stand a chance of improving their socio-economic status. Children’s centres within the wards of Blackburn with Darwen offer services to children, parents and carers as well as the community that create opportunities for those not in work to develop skills to enable them to get back into work, whether it be employment advice, financial support, housing advice or even an opportunity to talk to other residents who are also facing the same worries and concerns.

5.2 Free School Meals
Universal free school meals would cost approximately £1.53 billion a year, however the NHS costs alone for childhood poverty related illnesses tops the £2 billion a year mark and of these diseases and illnesses that are treated, five out of ten are nutrition related (World Health Organisation, 2002). The benefits to free school meals are not just short term but long term. Impacting on attainment, concentration in class, work productivity and consequentially impacting on the economic state of the country.

Nationally, as introduced by the Labour government in 2007 the length of maternity leave has been increased from 6 months to one year, although the statutory maternity pay is only paid for the original 6 month period, which when you consider the level of poverty that people live in within the UK makes it unsustainable is unmanageable for parents to stay on maternity leave for the full year. In turn this costs parent’s additional money to be able to send their child to quality childcare settings, or as is the case for many parents, staying at home and looking after their child and not returning to work is more cost effective.

6.0 Conclusion
Given the targets set by the government and the increasing levels of unemployment within the UK, eradicating poverty seems somewhat of an over ambitious target on an equally over ambitious agenda. Since the initial target setting in 2002 the figures show that not only has childhood poverty not been reduced, but that low income families has increased (Poverty.org, 2012). The measures put in place to end childhood poverty and to assist families to achieve economic wellbeing must be addressed on a larger scale and not just when it suits those in parliament.

Providing free school meals for all children in school will ensure that every child receives a hot meal a day, but what isn’t considered is what happens during school holidays. The out of school clubs within the UK provide care, food and security, but ultimately only to those who can afford it. Living in a western country does not automatically mean you are well off especially when you compare one western country to another.

7.0 References

Families and Work Institute. (1996). Brain development research. Available: http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content4/brain.development.html. Last accessed 8th May 2012.
Hirsch, D. (2007). Chicken and egg: Child poverty and educational inequalities. Available: http://www.cpag.org.uk/campaigns/education/EducationBriefing120907.pdf. Last accessed 19th April 2012.
Palmer, G. (2007). Relative poverty, absolute poverty and social exclusion. Available: http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/social%20exclusion.shtml. Last accessed 1st May 2012.
Pugh, G (2001). Contemporary issues in the early years. London: SAGE. 11.
Taggart, B. (2006). Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project. Available: http://eppe.ioe.ac.uk/. Last accessed 9th May 2012.
The Poverty Site. (2011). Concentrations of poor children. Available: http://www.poverty.org.uk/19/index.shtml. Last accessed 4th May 2012.
United Nations. (2003). Resolution adopted by the General Assembly. Available: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N02/556/84/PDF/N0255684.pdf?OpenElement. Last accessed 30th April 2012.
World Health Organisation. (2002). Global Burden of Disease (GBD). Available: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/en/. Last accessed 15th May 2012.

References: Families and Work Institute. (1996). Brain development research. Available: http://www.kidsource.com/kidsource/content4/brain.development.html. Last accessed 8th May 2012. Hirsch, D. (2007). Chicken and egg: Child poverty and educational inequalities. Available: http://www.cpag.org.uk/campaigns/education/EducationBriefing120907.pdf. Last accessed 19th April 2012. Palmer, G. (2007). Relative poverty, absolute poverty and social exclusion. Available: http://www.poverty.org.uk/summary/social%20exclusion.shtml. Last accessed 1st May 2012. Pugh, G (2001). Contemporary issues in the early years. London: SAGE. 11. Taggart, B. (2006). Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPPE) Project. Available: http://eppe.ioe.ac.uk/. Last accessed 9th May 2012. The Poverty Site. (2011). Concentrations of poor children. Available: http://www.poverty.org.uk/19/index.shtml. Last accessed 4th May 2012. United Nations. (2003). Resolution adopted by the General Assembly. Available: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N02/556/84/PDF/N0255684.pdf?OpenElement. Last accessed 30th April 2012. World Health Organisation. (2002). Global Burden of Disease (GBD). Available: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/en/. Last accessed 15th May 2012.

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