The Issue Of Poverty And Its Impact On Childcare

There are two commonly used measures of poverty in the UK. They are relative and absolute poverty. To be classed in relative low income; an individual must be living in a poor society with a lack of resources. This is barely managing to comply with the basic human needs. Absolute low income is severe deprivation of the basic human needs. These consist of food, sanitation facilities, education etc. Around 4.1 million children were living in relative low income in 2016/17. Around 3.5 million children were in absolute low income.

In 2010, Tony Blair introduced the Child Poverty Act. His aims were to eradicate child poverty by 2020. The act enforced for relative poverty that less than 10% of children are to live in this poverty. Less than 5% of children are to live in absolute poverty. This also comes under the Welfare Reform and Work act 2016. Other organisations such as UNICEF promote the rights and welfare of children living in poverty and deprivation. Children benefit from these schemes and are able to survive the means of poverty due to the help they get. For example, safeguarding is provided along with food vouchers and even beds. 

Due to poverty, many people have to live in insecure, overcrowded homes in order to afford other essentials. In some cases, they are homeless. Children living in estates do not have much in their home, for example, a lack of resources and motivation within their home environment affects their intellectual development. As it has been demonstrated that children at the age of four hear 32 million fewer words coming from a poor household than a child from an affluent household. When young children at the age of three will be at a disadvantage as their speech and language will be not as developed as their peers will. Due to this, the child will find it difficult to communicate and socialise, which can set them behind in the development. Children in households with one or more part-time worker are more likely to be in deprivation that children in unemployed households. This is because it is not the family status that determines the deprivation but moreover the likelihood that they are in households with one or no paid workers or living in council rented houses. 

Having a low income or no income puts many families on the breadline of absolute poverty. 58% of families in the UK are faced with a debt problem and worry about their family’s financial situation. They cannot afford basic essentials such as food, clothing, transportation, heating, cost of school equipment and trips. The home environments are not beneficial or suitable to live in, yet they have to. There is no place for children to complete homework or space to play. Consequently, they spend most time being outdoors unsupervised without set boundaries. However, they are developing on their physical development and they are gaining more independence at a younger age. They are wearier of the environment and becoming more mentally flexible which encourages greater use of the social brain. The anterior cingulate is active when a person deals with a change in expectations or anticipating problems, this is an example of the social brain. 

Young children growing up in low-income households have poorer health than children from richer backgrounds and score worse on tests of cognitive, social and behavioural development. Families with low-income households will tend to have a lower level of education and positive experiences. This would limit the amount of experience the parent would be able to aid the child's emotional, intellectual, physical and social development. The Department of work and pensions have designed universal credit replacing benefits such as; Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, and Housing Benefit etc. This is to support single parent and families on low come or out of work. Universal credit (UC) is designed to help families out of poverty especially children by introducing a culture of work. However, there is a risk that UC could actually increase poverty and make it worse. Some families may be worse off because of how UC is calculated.

One of the ways the department of work and pensions has tried to combat the differences between the ‘haves' and the ‘have not', is through benefits such as tax credits, low-income support, working tax credits and housing allowances. The tax credit system has helped families on low income to boost their income and provide some much-needed resources and aid. More recently, the October 2018 budget commencing in April 2019 would mean that working families on universal credit would gain an advantage of the benefit. This gives a budget boost to those low-income families if a single parent who works full-time is living on the national wage they would be £500 better off. Bernardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie recently reported that 'Families living on a low income have £13 per person per day to pay for food, electricity, gas, water, public travel, books, pens, USB sticks, school trips, uniforms and birthdays to name but few'.

Young children from the age of five to adolescents in a poor environment, have a higher chance of suffering from anxiety, hunger and malnourishment and emotionally becoming frustrated due to the restriction imposed by the family finance restrictions. This can cause children to be confused, angry and lead to behaviour problems, hindering their social and emotional development at an early stage. When they reach a certain age, they will begin to understand what they are living on. The children then reflect on their family’s financial situation, for example, they learn that the parent(s) cannot afford the latest gadgets, branded clothes, to socialising with friends for a birthday. These result in the child not fitting into the social stereotypes. This can influence on their personal and social development due to a destructive mindset being reinforced, subsequent in the child to turn to self-harm due to the lack of self-confidence in sustaining a friendship or participating in social events in their life. The negativity causes the child to struggle within the school. They do not concentrate as much and find it harder to cope. In addition, it affects whom they become, as they are constantly unhappy and do not think positively. A depressed person can be stuck in a state of anxiety due to the high cortisol, which can leave the person feeling vulnerable. Stating from Maslow's theory a child's early stage of development should be meeting the basic and psychological needs, which are the first stage of deficiency needs of physiological, safety, love, belonging and esteem. This theory is from Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is a motivational theory due to deprivation, deficiency needs arise. These needs are often said to motivate people when they are unmet. 

In some cases, parents often turn to alcohol and drugs/drug dealing to suffice the poverty. Even if they don’t want to, drug dealing can provide large sums of money. It is apparent that those who are unemployed or have insecure housing are most likely to abuse substances such as alcohol and drugs. If a child sees their parent taking drugs or alcohol, they will not only imitate that behaviour but also think it is okay. Bandura states that children learn by observing. That child will copy the behaviour of their models – in this instance, the parents- and will automatically deem it good without thinking about it. Drugs and alcohol are not good, but the child will not worry as their parents are taking them. Families that are living in poverty will not care for the quality of the substance, as they cannot afford high quality. Thus, they buy low-quality substances, which will have greater effects on the person's health. If at a young age the child starts to repeat these habits, it will only continue as a cycle. They will fall deeper into poverty and will end up depending on harmful substances. However, this can be avoided if the parents see the child imitating their behaviour and stop them. Bandura also states that the people around the child will react to the actions with either reinforcement or punishment. The parents can punish the child for imitating the actions and this could lead to the parent becoming wearier about what the child sees them do.

As the children are at school, they are within an environment that can provide them with decent food, stimulation of the brain and keeping them active. They have a chance to interact with the same age group within a safe environment. It can be a different story when returning home as parents with financial constraints battle to balance the day-to-day necessities, budgeting to get the bills paid or getting food where the latter can become an expense rather than a necessity. This would exclude the additional items as mentioned earlier like school trips, with more and more schools offering extra learning opportunities for children outside of the classroom.

Poverty has provided evidence that pupils and students lack opportunities for education in many different ways. The children commission on poverty has found that a third of children claim that ‘due to the lack of materials and missing school due to the cost which parents have difficulty to meet. In today’s society, the high school dropouts are most likely to be low-income students; regardless if they are academically proficient, they are four ½ times more likely to not complete college. The gap between wealthy and poor students sitting SAT’s have increased by 42% in the last two decades. 

It is not merely just a case of going to a local comprehensive or a private school, but rather the other associated factors. The factors are the quality of education, resources, expenses, other environments and expectations. The quality of education is different from comprehensive schools to public schools because the standard they are taught maybe different. It may be the same subject but teaching would be different. Many children facing poverty do not attend ‘outstanding’ schools nor can they afford private schools. This means their education is not at a great standard. In coastal rural areas, which are highly deprived, 7% of secondary teachers are unqualified, compared with 4.6% in more affluent rural areas. Some schools partnership with other schools to widen the expertise and resources to boost attainment. However, Chris Gardener said ‘You can close to nothing but if you are willing to work and use the resources around you'. A child in poverty is not necessarily going to fail school. If they work hard using the resources that they have, they will be able to achieve what they want. Even poor education is better than nothing is. Bronfenbrenner’s microsystem is the small immediate environment the child lives in. This will include immediate family, caregivers and schoolteachers/ teaching assistants. A child living in poverty may not have the best home environment but at school, they are able to have a positive environment. The good environment will influence the child’s microsystem.

The education department has implemented pupil premium to support the extra funding for the school to provide extra intention, one to one support, children with special education needs and supporting disadvantaged children from a deprived area. This allows children who are living in poverty to have an education without being restricted by opportunities. Pupil premium offers free school meals, which allow the child to have at least one nutritious meal during the day. 

In China, education is very valued. A nine-year compulsory education system was put in place to reduce child labour and child poverty. By making it compulsory, every child between the ages six to fifteen have to be in education. This means that even if a child is poor, they still get some extent of education. Regardless, there is a divide between rural and urban education systems. In rural areas, the teachers are not as good as they would be in urban areas. There is a struggle to get quality teachers from urban areas to rural areas, which ultimately affects the quality of education the child is receiving. 

Poverty has a huge impact on families especially children as they are more vulnerable. It seemed mostly to be a negative experience but with the right support and guidance, it can be the motivating force to cause change. Similar to the Chinese education system, there is a compulsory age at which children have to stay in school for. Allowing children in poverty to experience good education. The finances of a family may be limited but the opportunity of the child is only limited by the parents own limitations. If the parents wish for their child to develop and they have the will power, they can find a way. It may be not them helping the child in the case of paying for a tutor, but the parent would work extra hours in order to pay for the tutor. Poverty does affect the whole development of a child but also affects the surrounding environment. Nevertheless, even if the parent is facing poverty, the child will not necessarily have to face it too. Parents can protect their child from poverty by providing the necessities.

16 August 2021
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