Poverty means people are unable to live their lives to the minimum standard of the society in which they live. Inadequate income is the overall deciding factor of poverty when basic material needs cannot be met and people are excluded from taking part in their society because of this situation. Third world countries are the stereotypical places that people associate with poverty yet according to The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP, 2012) 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.
Therefore, the face of poverty is now a child from a heavily populated urban area in the UK, living in poor quality social housing, where local governments are operating on reduced budgets and wages for the employed aren’t sufficient enough to cover the rising costs of childcare. The effects of child poverty in the UK create a cycle of intergenerational poverty including poor health, low educational attainment and limited social mobility. Children need to be educated to a standard to enable them to gain employment, contribute to society and therefore eliminate the cost to our society.
Barnardos (2012), states that the risk of children living in poverty is greatly dependent upon circumstance. The unemployed face benefit cuts resulting in low income; large families are at risk due to increased costs in providing for additional children and young parents just beginning in the world of employment will earn low salaries due to their age. Working families and lone parents deal with government cuts to tax credits; closures of Sure Start Centres and are living on the ‘bread line’ because the minimum wage is low and often they do not progress onto higher paid jobs or better prospects in employment.
Children from poor families show low levels of educational attainment as supported by (End Child Poverty, 2012) where it is stated that “poverty predicts educational outcomes” and children from poor backgrounds do not perform as well academically or achieve the qualifications required to secure well-paid jobs. Therefore, the cycle of poverty remains unbroken, which is a result of intergenerational poverty. A restricted benefits system along with low paid jobs creates an economic inequality gap as suggested by (TED, 2011) which results in limited social mobility.
According to The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC, 2012), children that have low educational attainment also become disadvantaged in other areas of their lives. This can be carried into adulthood limiting their employability and the opportunity for progression. Behavioural and psychological issues arise from educational failures and feelings of social inequality and personal failure can contribute towards on-going mental health problems. Therefore, it is apparent that child poverty increases health issues and costs to The National Health Service (NHS) spanning several years of a person’s life time.
D Acheson (1998) draws attention to how poverty effects maternal health and increases low birth weights which are linked to disabilities, poor physical and emotional health in childhood and even deaths. This again is the result of the poverty cycle which creates a long term social cost as argued by Polly Toynbee (BBC Today, 2011) where the view is held that child poverty is creating a social deficit that is becoming harder to get out of. To stop this social deficit growing there are changes that need to be made by the government and by society as a whole to eradicate child poverty.
As concluded in the research by D Hirsch, (2006) increased benefits and tax credits directed specifically towards poor families and extra payments for larger families are needed. Provisions for affordable child care will give incentives to work and enable parents to be able to afford to work. Looking longer term to solve the problem, emphasis is made upon educating the parents of tomorrow by supporting the disadvantaged in education now. The government’s commitment to end child poverty, (Child Poverty Act 2010) has, according to L Judge (2012, p. ) shown significant improvement in educational attainment and students staying on in further education as well as a decrease in income poverty, mental health issues and homelessness.
There are many charities campaigning from different angles and in different problematic areas to end child poverty; for example, Barnardos (2012 ) are campaigning for a fairer and more accessible financial system through banks and post offices, since their investigation revealed that poor families are vulnerable to having to pay extortionate prices to purchase essential items they need via expensive rent-to-own schemes .
Society must acknowledge and take responsibility for the snowballing effects of child poverty as it is partly to blame for its existence. Decisions in voting for government along with attitudes held by people within the UK can fuel child poverty’s growth or eradicate its existence. Just as poverty limits a child’s potential, this in the long term limits society and the economies chance to reach its full potential, thus affecting all inhabitants within the UK whether or not they are rich or poor.
To ensure a healthy, positive, lucrative, secure and trusting future environment for all to live in, society today must care about the existence of the next generation and care about today’s children in their communities. In this day and age in a country considered rich within Europe, there should not be children going hungry, missing education or feeling the cold. Children are vulnerable and they have only adults to rely on to make the right decisions for them and to guide them. These are the reasons why we should care about Child Poverty in the UK because it is the responsibility and duty of society to care.