Madeleine Davies

Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

“I blame the parents” (Child poverty blog 5)

In Uncategorized on October 29, 2012 at 5:13 pm

“Since 1969 I have witnessed a growing indifference from some parents to meeting the most basic needs of children, and particularly younger children, those who are least able to fend for themselves. I have also observed how the home life of a minority but, worryingly, a growing minority of children, fails to express an unconditional commitment to the successful nurturing of children.”

Report of the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances; Frank Field, 2010

“Large numbers of the poorest children are read to every day, taken to places of interest, have regular bed times and are breast fed by their mothers. These examples of positive behaviours among the lowest income parents give grounds for optimism that such behaviours can be promoted more widely among vulnerable families.”

Low Income and Early Cognitive Development in the U.K; Washbrook and Waldfogel for The Sutton Trust, 2011

Is poor parenting to blame for child poverty?

In December 2010, the Labour MP Frank Field published his independent review on poverty and life chances and concluded that

“The UK needs to address the issue of child poverty in a fundamentally different way…It is family background, parental education, good parenting and the opportunities for learning and development in those crucial years that together matter more to children than money in determining whether their potential is realised in adult life.”

His work builds on that undertaken by the Centre for Social Justice, with a clear focus on the first years of a child’s life – a “broadening of the attack on child poverty”. It “questions the almost universal assumption over the last hundred years that increases in income alone will automatically lead to social progress.” After all, he points out, the post-war period had seen a “considerable increase” in real incomes, yet “too many children now start school who are unable to make the most of their schools lives.”

There is plenty to take issue with here. The Labour Government did focus on income, but it also invested huge amounts in public services such as the Sure Start centres, in recognition of the fact that income alone wouldn’t solve the problems faced by disadvantaged children (see Blog 2.).

Questions remain about the relationship between parenting and poverty. And about the extent to which the State should intervene in the former.

Read the rest of this entry »

Beveridge’s optimism confounded? Family breakdown and child poverty (Child poverty blog 4)

In Uncategorized on October 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm

“There is one overriding reason why Beveridge’s optimism was confounded: the decline of the family. From the 1960s onwards, the UK’s divorce rate rose rapidly. The crime rate followed closely behind it, as did the growth of the underclass. While the better off may be able to afford the self-indulgence of the permissive society, the poor need families.”

Bruce Anderson (Conservative political columnist) The Independent

“Gingerbread urges the government to focus much more attention on tackling the real issues facing families in financial hardship, rather than wrongly vilifying the 1.9 million single parents who are doing their best to bring up their children, often in very difficult circumstances”.

Response by Gingerbread, charity for lone parents, to speech by Iain Duncan Smith to Relate

A quarter of children in Britain now grow up in single parent families, compared to 13% in 1979. The latest statistics from the Department for Work and Pensions show that, in lone parent households, 41% of children are living in poverty, compared to 23% in two-parent families.

Included in the Government’s child poverty strategy is a focus on “preventing family and relationship breakdown”, comprising:

  • An increase in the amount spent on relationship support to £7.5 million each year in 2011-2015
  • Direct support to charities who provide family support services online and over the phone

Last week, the Government reiterated its commitment to recognising marriage in the income tax system.

So does family break-down cause poverty?

Read the rest of this entry »

“Surely that’s a sin, that’s the problem”: Worklessness (child poverty blog 3)

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2012 at 8:37 am

“Megan had five children living at home, the oldest was 13 years old and two of them were under 18 months of age. Although she had re-partnered, the relationship had not lasted and she was bringing up her children alone. Her previous experiences of employment have made her anxious about leaving her children in childcare. She also had strong views about leaving young children with a child minder or in any other kind of private provision. When Megan had been in work she had not felt better off. She attended a work focused interview every six months although she would not consider entering work until her children were older and she greatly resented the pressure she felt she has been put under to do so. ‘I’ve told them I wont leave them with a childminder…They’re my children. I had them. I should obviously look after them and I understand yes, that I should be working and I shouldn’t be claiming money from the Government and what have you, but I will eventually go back to work and I’ll pay back, in my eyes, what I’ve had from them.’ She also feels that there is a lot of stigma attached to attending Jobcentre Plus for mothers like her. ‘I don’t like going because I don’t like going down to the job centre because all the benefits and stuff are all in the job centre now and I mean, obviously there’s people there…and it’s just the way people look at you when you’re walking in…Like something that came off the bottom of their shoes, some of them sort of look at you like that, sort of thing. But, obviously, they don’t see the full picture. They only see half of the picture.’

Case study taken from Work and wellbeing over time: lone mothers and their children, DWP Research Report No.536, Ridge and Millar (2008).

“In-work poverty has become the major child poverty challenge of recent years, with no signs of any real progress”

Helen Barnard, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2011

When I found the first quote, above, about Megan, I could hear in my head the sort of reactions it might provoke:

“Why would you have five kids if you were living on benefits?”

“Why should the state subsidise large, workless families?”

“Of course mums should be able to stay with their kids until they’re at school”

“This is why we need to make work pay”

In the next two blogs, I’ll look at some of the factors that the current Government has pledged to tackle as “the causes of poverty”, both of which are illustrated in Megan’s case: worklessness and family break-down.

Read the rest of this entry »