The Current Situation
Research carried out by Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) asserts that the U.K ranks amongst Europe’s worst in statistics relating to child poverty. Indicators including education, wellbeing, behaviour and housing and environment are frequently used in research to assess the state of Britain’s children and the results of recent studies are fairly shocking when you consider the relative affluence of this country. Putting a stop to child poverty was outlined as a cornerstone for new Labour’s policies in the last general election; however rates are still alarming and there is a great deal of work yet to do.
Why is it so bad?
The changing nature and composition of the family means a decrease in stability. In financial terms it can be difficult, particularly for mothers, to find work that fits in around school and nursery hours and therefore many parents choose to stay at home rather than go out to work. Living on benefits is often not enough to provide everything a child needs and this can lead to deprivation. Socially speaking, the rise in teenage pregnancies means that children are barely reaching adulthood before they become parents; while some do an excellent job it is undoubtedly an extremely difficult task to bring up a child and teenage mothers often lack the necessary life skills to nurture a baby, as well as suffering from a lack of financial and sometimes emotional, stability. In addition, the significant increase in divorce, co-habitation and to some extent, remarriage, means that many children are growing up in an ever-changing environment and this can affect their general wellbeing, confidence and self-esteem.
How to make the situation better
The Government was committed to focusing on the importance of getting adults into work in order to provide stable and comfortable surroundings to bring up a child. Research suggests that having parents who work considerably decreases the likelihood of their children living in poverty; studies completed by Save the Children estimate that the chance of children living under the bread-line decreases from 62% when neither parent works, to just 5% when both parents work. Having both parents in employment does have its problems though; childcare for example can often be so expensive that it negates one parent’s income. In addition, many parents feel that they spend little time with their children if they both work and therefore cause other issues such as psychological problems by addressing financial concerns.
To address these concerns charities such as Save the Children have suggested increased access to affordable childcare and more flexible working hours for parents. Government initiatives have been put in place to ameliorate this situation and are working towards a suitable solution to enable parents to work and play a role in their child’s upbringing. Additional programmes such as the Department for Children, Schools and Families’ ‘Every Child Matters’ programme is also focused on helping every child live a healthy and happy life. Social services are also committed to helping those most at risk by means of close monitoring on individual progress and children’s charities such as the NSPCC and BBC’s Children in Need frequently fundraise in order to make these children’s lives better.