Sunday 9 December 2012

I accuse the Coalition of knowingly increasing child poverty

Blurb of 'Born to Fail?' 1973

A month or so ago during morning play at a local primary school a 5 year old boy came up to me, rubbing his stomach looking at me with pleading eyes, and saying 'I'm hungry'.

Sympathetic school staff  found some biscuits and fruit to keep him going until dinner time. Apparently it wasn't the first time he had made that appeal. 

Inevitably schools are the first to see the direct impact of economic pressure on families, not just hunger but inadequate clothing, worn out shoes, tiredness caused by lack of sleep through living in one room in a bed and breakfast or shared housing. We are also seeing children disappearing from the school roll as they are rehoused out of London away from family and support systems.

Although the Coalition is keen to shift the blame on to 'work shy' families, fecklessness and dependency culture in an effort to divide and rule the working class, the truth is that 62% of children currently in poverty have one working parent. However the Coalition  seem determined to punish children for the perceived sins of their parents.

Coalition policies including the Housing Benefit cap, the Universal Benefit cap, and the move to restrict child benefit to the  first two children, will reduce disposable income and thus amount available to buy food.

The Coalition are taking food out of children's mouths.

There has been some progress recently in closing the gap in educational achievement between the poor and the rich, a gap so vividly illustrated by the National Children's Bureau in 'Born to Fail' in 1973. More recently the Child Poverty Action Group has listed the impact of child poverty:

  • There are 3.6 million children living in poverty 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.
  • Work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of children growing up in poverty live in a household 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.
  • Child poverty blights childhoods. Growing up in poverty means being cold, going hungry, not being able to join in activities with friends. For example, 62 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.
  • Child poverty imposes costs on broader society – estimated to be at least £25 billion a year. 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 reduced dramatically between 1998/9-2010/12 when 1.1 million children were lifted out of poverty (BHC).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 from 2012/13 with an expected 300,000 more children living in poverty by 2015/16.This upward trend is expected to continue with 4.2 million children projected to be living in poverty by 2020.
The last Labour government pledged to reduce child poverty with some limited success and the goal was supposed to have cross-party support. Clearly the Coalition is going in the opposite direction.

'Born to Fail' in 1973 concluded:
...if it is accepted that many parents are expected to cope with impossible burdens and that their material circumstances provide a major contribution to those burdens then there is much to be said for tackling  more earnestly the poor housing and low income that our study has revealed, Arguably it could eliminate a large part of many families' difficulties. And on humanitarian grounds alone large numbers of children need a better chance to grow, develop, learn and live that they currently received...
Are we more interested in a bigger national cake so that some children get a bigger slice eventually - or are we ready for disadvantaged children to have a bigger slice now even if as a result our personal slice is smaller. 
How many of our pleasures are bought at the expense of the disadvantaged.
It is not just the immediate hunger that a child might feel today but the way that will affect their life chances in terms of education attainment, health and income. For society it raises questions about polarisation, alienation, disaffection and conflict.

In 2011 the Institute for Fiscal Studies in Child and Working Age Poverty 2010-2014 modelling the changes ahead in welfare and fiscal policy concluded:
The results therefore suggest that there can be almost no chance of eradicating child poverty - as defined in the Child Poverty Act - on current government policy.
Although this project did not assess what policies would be required in order for child poverty to be eradicated, it is impossible to see how relative child poverty could fall by so much in the next 10 years without changes to the labour market and welfare policy, and an increase in the amount of redistribution performed by the tax and benefit system, both to an extent never before seen in the UK. IFS researchers have always argued that the targets set in the Child Poverty Act were extremely challenging, and the findings here confirm that view. It now seems almost incredible that the targets could be met, yet the government confirmed its commitment to them earlier this year, in its first Child Poverty Strategy, and remains legally-bound to hit them.
There is no shortage of evidence about the damage that is currently being done and that will increase over the next few years.  The only conclusion I can reach is that the Coalition  is prepared to see children suffer as they pursue their aim to destroy the welfare state.


Anonymous said...

"...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." Oh, really? What 'facts' are we talking about here? It is VERY difficult to get into poverty without one of these causes, or something similar, applying.

Dilys said...

Those things do cause poverty, Anonymous, but there are people with disabilities which make it hard to get work, and it's hard for anyone to get work in the current situation, plus the minimum wage is inadequate, many can get only part time work, and the self employed can lose through illness or their customers becoming poorer.. etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Martin and Dilys.

(Despite the 'anonymous' log in, I declare myself as Alan 'Raymondo' Wheatley of Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group. Unlike the 'Anonymous' above, I am not hiding my ID here.)

I personally have an invivisble disability and have lived most of my 'working life' in poverty, and not for want of education, volunteering to upgrade my skills, etc.

As an example, in the year 2000 (my 46th year) I passed the entry test to get into a 'Web Development' training course 'free' for jobcentre clients. Yet I turned down that training offer for good reason. It had taken me two years beyond 1997 18-week government-funded training period to acquire the 'underpinning knowledge' with which to pass that entry test, and only with the help of a home PC and training manuals paid for by my mum on the advice of my 1997 course leader, and I was appalled at the fact that the Web Development course was only six weeks guaranteed class tuition and no guarantee to a training placement. The training provider agreed that six weeks was inadequate but told me that they had halved the length of training period in order to double the throughput from the dole queue! I will always be a 'slower learner', but does government have to always raise the hurdles for disabled people by reducing the available supports?

But throughout the time since I received extra tuition at a CofE school when I was behind my peers in basic literacy, I have built upon a life of learning and been able to use education as something that helps raise my sights as well as those of others. As a voluntary trainer in very basic Information & Communication Technology skills, I have witnessed how lack of basic literacy makes learners more dependent on others as readers, and how, say, the prioritising of London 2012 agenda led Learning & Skills Council London Central to cut back on support for adult learners who were not yet up to Level 2 learning fodder. Thus the Computer Club that I volunteered for in 2004/5 folded when funding expired.

I might wish that the likes of 'Anonymous' above would stop blaming disadvantaged people for what are, to a large extent, secondary problems exacerbated by the ways that those 'raised to be the top of their class' tend to use their intelligence to manipulate others, although I would also point out that alcoholism is often a disease in itself.

Trevor said...

To Expect Treatment That Does not Reflect the painfully Horrible Realities of this System is in my opinion to delude ones selves and in fact Delays what is bound to be inevitable and so either way one is bound to end up feeling hurt and distressed.
for example is it not without good reason the saying about playing with fire was coined?
politicians are the Jimmy saville's of Britain and that obviously isn't a compliment.
and therefore if we expect a pervert to do perverted things, we can and should expect corrupt politicians to create an unjust system which clearly reflects their extremely warped sense of justice and morals.
for example this is meant to be a Christian country and yet we Have Hypocrite Politicians falling over themselves
to make gay people feel at ease.
now that begs the question should gay people be made to feel as uneasy as possible?
after all they are humans first right and therefore should be helped to feel at home while living in this country right?
that reflects a fair sense of justice doesn't it?
and yet here we have hypocrites in positions of great authority and responsibly and yet misusing it in order to create an immoral system in which the ways belonging to a true Christian society reflects instead the warped ideas of Politicians that clearly Believe its ideas are better.
but what has time and experience revealed?
the current bunch of political hypocrites are falling over themselves pushing these so called reforms that are supposedly meant to benefit us and yet what has time shown so far?
are there not more people stressed out when they find that the system set up by the political hypocrites is not fair and shows little or no regards for the feelings of those under them?
and another classic example of an extremely corrupt system is one for example that ignores the "caring warnings" about the dangers of smoking and instead misuses its authority to create an immoral society in which people grow up in a country in which the promotion of smoking is acceptable and backed by politicians and so that becomes the norm and it works in that person after person walks into the trap of smoking and what do they gain?
well are lung and throat cancer things worth paying for?
and yet isn't that what you are doing when you decide to start smoking?
you are paying for health damaging diseases.
and yet this is meant to be a Christian society and according to my knowledge and understanding, that is meant to help make human societies better because Christianity promotes love of neighbor and when one truly loves their neighbors, they don't literally stab them in the back and or betray them because doing that does not reflect Christian moralities.
and yet decades of Growing up in this Country has clearly shown that there is more love shown for money than neighbors.
and yet the True Christian Apostle Paul Accurately predicted that that would become the norm along with a false show of love for god.
the so called coalition no doubt believe what it is doing is morally sound but it clearly isn't and as usual more people are suffering as a result of the doings of the government rather than suffering decreasing as what should happen as a result of the dealings of a true Christian government in a True Christian country.
but the sad reality is that the British Government in what they have done and continue to do is about as Christian as what Jimmy saville did to his victims.
in 97 we were told that Britain deserved Better...but what we got instead of making Britain Better, Made it worse.
and it's obvious that the current government will be gone come 2015 but the damage will be done as usual and we will suffer the lasting damaging affects of the current government's dealings and the failings of the previous hypocrite labour government that came in promising that things could only get better but time has revealed that things have got worse.