1 in 4 children in UK live in poverty

Earlier this year the Trussell Trust, the UK foodbank provider, claimed that nearly one million people had visited a foodbank for an emergency 3 day food supply, a staggering 163% increase since 2012/13 figures. The increase in reliance on food banks has been linked to problems in the benefit system, and to people relying on a low income. As the demand for emergency food soars, so does the level of poverty in the UK. It is estimated that there are now 3.5 million children currently living in poverty in the UK, 27%, more than one in four, and this figure is only set to rise.

It has been predicted by the Child Poverty Action Group that by 2015/16 there will be another 600,000 children living in poverty. In a literature review for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, researchers Griggs and Walker (2008) argued that ‘the consequences of child poverty are serious, far-reaching and multi-faceted’.

The repercussions of such a scale of child poverty have already begun to manifest, with detrimental consequences to services. The National Health Service (NHS) alone has reported an increase in poverty-related illnesses, as the cases of rickets has increased, alongside other malnutrition-related diseases in recent years. The economic, social, and cultural rights movement Just Fair has stated that the “effects of this food crisis are widespread and dramatic”. It also stated that there was a “74% increase in the number of malnutrition-related hospital admissions since 2008-09”, an unacceptable figure for one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

It is now estimated that 1 in 7 children in the UK go without a regular breakfast, however it is not just the health of children living in poverty that is at risk. Without a regular and nutritional breakfast, children in poverty are going without the sustenance required for a good educational performance in school. Cases of poor performance in schools from children living in poverty have increased along with the numbers living in poverty, and it is believed to be due to a lack of regular sustenance, lack of support and educational facilities, such as books.

Chris Cook, Policy editor for BBC Newsnight, has noticed a correlation between UK poverty levels and GCSE results. He concluded that ‘poorer children do systematically worse than richer ones’, and that ‘for all the changes since 2010’ aimed at improving the education system, ‘the old patterns are persisting’. Children from poorer backgrounds are still performing worse than children from wealthier homes, despite the government’s high hopes for the increase in grammar school education in recent years.

Subsequently, this has had an impact on career prospects for those living in poverty. Poor GCSE results have shown a negative effect on employability. In the UK job market, there is a heavy reliance on employees having 5 A*-C grades at GCSE in almost every job advertised. When raised in an environment where educational support at home is limited, and there is persistence in poor performance in school, it is hard for school leavers to obtain a career path and secure their financial future. Donald Hirsch, in a paper estimating the costs of child poverty, has found that this ‘effect persists after controlling for educational achievement, and has grown over time’. This could lead to a vicious cycle, where those who were raised in poverty are destined to stay in such conditions when entering adulthood, running the risk of raising their children in similar circumstances.

Though family income is not always the determining factor, poor career prospects and poor living standards have, as records have continually shown, had an impact on crime rates. Statistics have shown that there is an ‘intimate’ relationship between poverty and crime. Evidence from social studies, such as Aber et al 1997, shows that issues with low self esteem and poor family relations are contributory factors to anti-social activities. The increase in child poverty is therefore a harrowing omen to an increase in current and future youth offenders.

But what does all this mean for the rest of the country? Many turn a blind eye to poverty, with a general ignorance of accepting poverty on British soil. With a continual demonisation of people relying on the benefits system and the widespread belief of a slack welfare state, it is not surprising that little is being done to implement measures to ensure an eradication of poverty in the UK. However, an ignorance of the subject has caused a strain on a variety of services. In research undertaken by Glen Bramley and David Watkins in 2008, it was found that Health Services, Social Services, Educational Services, the Emergency Services, Housing, Police and Judicial services, and local and environment services are all impacted by increased levels of poverty.

Those who maintain and blame poverty for strains on services and high crime rates fail to see that the way to counteract such a dilemma is to increase opportunities in the job market. This will raise living standards, job prospects, self esteem, school performance, and health. It would help lower crime rates and strains on services.

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Categories: Europe

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