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Introduction - Childhood Poverty
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Child belonging to a family whose income is below 60% of the United Kingdom's average income he/she is considered to be poverty-stricken (Barcena-Martin et al., 2018). Child poverty not only revolves around lack of income but it deprives the child of basic necessities such as shelter, clean drinking water, clothing and even human rights. It also results in health conditions such as malnutrition. Childhood poverty plays a crucial role in damaging the mental and physical health of a child in long as well as short term. The lack of basic necessities contributes in stunting a child's growth (Main and Bradshaw, 2016).
According to the reports produced by Social Metrics Commission (SMC) on extent of childhood poverty in UK enlisted below are the facts which depict the actual scenario of childhood poverty in UK:
- According to this report in the year 2018 over four million children were poverty-stricken in the UK which accounts to 30% of children (Schweiger, 2019).
- Over 40% of children living with single parents are poverty-stricken. Usually children belonging to single parent families are poverty-stricken due to the lack of another earner in their family, being prone to issues like gender inequality at work, child expenses (Barcena-Martin et al., 2018).
- Children belonging to minority groups have a high chance of being in poverty. Currently 46% of children belonging to minority groups are poverty-stricken compared to 26% of poverty-stricken children belonging to the White British families.
- In UK, having a job does not help in leaving the vicious circle of poverty. 72% of children experiencing childhood poverty belong to families where at least one person has a job (Roelen, 2017).
- Children belonging to large families are more prone to poverty than children living in small families. 43% of children who live in large families having three or more siblings are poverty-stricken (Evans, 2016).
According to the survey two costs striking the family budget are child care and housing expenses.
Some basic causes of childhood poverty in UK are enlisted below:
- The main contributing factor of childhood poverty is the lack of sufficient income of a parent, low income confines the earning of a household. Low income is not only caused by joblessness but also from working less than the required hours, having a low pay . These are in turn caused by,
- Long-term joblessness- when a person is jobless for a quite long term he/she experiences a loss of skill as well as difficulty in returning to work. This also results in change of attitude towards work. These factors contribute in generating low pay or even loss of work resulting in inability to cope up with child care expenses (Nolan, 2018).
- Two factors which reduce the earnings contributed by parents are parental ill health and instability of family. These factors also restrict the employment and working of the other parent making them more particular i.e. confined because of juggling between taking care of child or disable member and employment (Wolfe et al., 2016).
- Living in a large family with 3 or more children burdens the family budget. The size of a family play a major role in childhood poverty. Lack of sufficient income results in deprivation of basic necessities of children. A large family needs a high income in order to avoid poverty. Families with more children require more care and attention resulting in confined parental employment (Bramley and Fitzpatrick, 2018).
Dependency on alcohol and drugs is however low but it is has a profound effect on parents as well as children. So, the factors playing a major role in childhood poverty are currently parental joblessness and low wage. Other major factors contributing to childhood poverty are family instability, low qualification of parents, family size.
Impact of childhood poverty:
- Poor child health and wellbeing: Poor health outcomes resulting from poverty on children can occur in many ways such as limited resources for basic necessities such as clothing and shelter, stress of long term exposure to poverty, unhealthy lifestyles such as alcohol and drug dependency, poor health, education and employment opportunities, children being exposed to poverty also results in bullying, alienation because of having few peers and less social activities (Wolfe et al., 2016). Constant worries about low household income or poverty degrades mental health and makes anyone depressed and anxious resulting in frequent arguments and anger, an environment like this is very harmful for a child. There are cases in which children with mental health issues do not have the bus fare to afford a counsellor service and hence decide to battle it alone.
- Health inequalities have a major impact on poverty-stricken children. Children belonging to poor households or to deprived areas have a a greater exposure to poor health conditions compared to kids from affluent families (Main and Bradshaw, 2017). Poor health outcomes are evident in malnutrition, tooth decay, poor physical and mental health, teenage pregnancy, high infant mortality rate, deprivation from breastfeeding and so on. Childhood poverty is also associated with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Children experiencing childhood poverty have a high proportion in ACEs reports (Nolan, 2018).
- When considering educational outcomes by school achievement and cognitive development, children experiencing childhood poverty have worse result compared to children coming from affluent families. Factors which contribute to poor educational outcomes are low parental guidance and engagement with child's education, poor preschool education (Fitzsimons et.al, 2017).
The psychological school of thought: