Posts Tagged 'Children'

Family migration: Re-uniting across international borders

Why have so many Polish families chosen to make the UK their home? In this blog post, Anne White discusses some of the motivations for and complexities of family migration to the UK, as explored in her book, Polish families and migration since EU accession, out today in paperback. 

Anne White

British society has been changed beyond recognition by the recent influx of people from Central and Eastern Europe, and particularly from Poland.

To everyone’s surprise, within a few years Poles have become the largest group of foreign nationals and the largest foreign-born population in the UK. The evidence suggests that many Polish people now consider themselves settled in Britain, at least for the medium term.

The fact that so many Poles are with their families does a great deal to explain why they feel at home in the UK, even if just ten years ago parents shared the general ‘wait and see’, ‘let’s give it a go’ attitude of the tens of thousands of other young Poles who experimented with migration to the West around the time their country joined the EU.

How did it happen?

The Brexit campaign centred on the slogan of ‘taking back control over our borders’, but migration research has demonstrated time and time again that controlling immigration in a democracy is an unrealisable ambition. As Castles and Miller (2009) famously observed, immigration cannot simply be ‘turned on and off like a tap’.

Migration is not a thing, like water, but the individual or combined actions of many individual people, all with their own experiences and motivations.

The decisions and actions of migrants abroad are shaped by the twists and turns of their integration experiences (‘The main thing is that my child is doing well at school’ ‘Can I bear to go on working as a cleaner or do I have to change my job?’ ‘Will my English ever improve or should I give up?’) and their ebbing and waning transnational practices (‘I seem to be spending more and more time on Skype to my friends in Poland’ ‘Should we stay with our parents in Poland this summer or take a holiday in Spain?’)

My book, Polish families and migration since EU Accession, explores the stories of Polish parents in the UK – and how they talk about their integration, transnational practices and feelings about possible return to Poland – to understand how they make decisions about how long to stay and how, as it has transpired, they hardly ever decide to go back to Poland.

In my book¸I demonstrate the seemingly unstoppable dynamics of networks, as family members and friends of the ‘pioneer’ migrants move abroad, often without definite plans to stay, but find themselves putting down roots, and inviting other Poles in turn.

“The absence of immigration controls cannot on its own explain why migration happens.”

The EU provides a free movement space, but since most EU citizens do not move abroad (even if they could make a better living by migrating) the absence of immigration controls cannot on its own explain why migration happens. The main point is that the free movement space allows families and friends easily to re-unite across international borders.

This, as much as economic factors, explains why Polish and other Central and East European migration has continued apace since my book first appeared in 2010. The family reunification process is now visible in many other West European countries, not just the UK. Networks have continued to function dynamically despite the global economic crisis, austerity policies and increased hostility towards migrants from majority populations.

I undertook 115 in-depth interviews with Polish mothers in Poland and the UK, as well as fieldwork notes and a specially-designed opinion poll in Poland about family migration.

A new chapter for the paperback edition draws on my 114 interviews for three recent projects as well as ethnographic fieldwork and a vast reservoir of English- and Polish-language Polish migration research which has suddenly appeared in the last few years and which I also review.

“Migration is best understood by combining a sending and receiving country perspective.”

Most of my research was conducted in Poland, in the conviction that migration is best understood by combining a sending and receiving country perspective. My fieldwork sites had rich histories of migration and a strong but changing ‘migration culture’ which was evident from how interviewees talked about migration and the workings of networks.

Migration should not be ‘into the dark’ (with nothing fixed in advance) but if you could go abroad ‘to someone’ it was worth ‘giving it a go’. Individuals and families who migrated were not condemned by neighbours for being materialistic or unpatriotic: instead, they were said to be migrating ‘for bread, not coconuts’ and a ‘normal’ standard of living.

Most interesting, however, was the fact that the migration culture was changing with regard to taking children abroad. Whereas until very recently the norm has been for just one parent to work abroad, usually the father, returning at intervals to his household in Poland, there is now widespread agreement that this produces too much heartache and that ‘families should stick together’.

In other words, the reasons why Polish children move to the UK are to be found in Poland as much as in the UK.

What of gender roles?

On the one hand, classic family reunification where the husband goes first can appear to simply reinforce traditional roles. However, on closer examination it appears that family reunification is a step towards, and evidence of, more equal relationships between spouses.

Not all wives are happy to stay in Poland and wait for their husband to send them remittances. Moreover, the book illustrates that wives, and sometimes also children, have a major role to play in shaping the family’s migration strategy.

A decisive event in many families, and one which deserves attention from scholars, is the ‘inspection visit’, when family members visit the husband shortly after his departure abroad. In other words, it is important to look closely at what is entailed by ‘family reunification’ for twenty-first century migrants, and to recognise that it does not necessarily imply the playing out of conventional gender roles.

Polish families and migration since EU accession by Anne White can be ordered here for £21.59.

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Attitudes to social security in Britain today

As new welfare reforms come into effect this month the editors of a special issue of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice explore attitudes to and experiences of welfare. 

Image copyright: Dole Animators

Authors: John Hudson, Ruth Patrick and Emma Wincup

In his first budget as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond was notably silent on the topical issue of ‘welfare’.

Unlike his predecessor, Hammond announced no new tightening of the social security budget nor any extra mechanisms to address what is so often (however erroneously) described as the ‘lifestyle choice’ of ‘welfare dependency’.

However, the welfare reforms already timetabled by Osborne and Cameron are proceeding apace.

April 2017 sees several new measures implemented that will further reduce social security support and make it more conditional. These include extensions to the welfare conditionality faced by parents and carers of young children and reductions in the financial support available to disabled people. May’s government is also overseeing the removal of child-related financial support via tax credits and Universal Credits for third and subsequent children in the same family.

“Attitudes to ‘welfare’ are much more complex and nuanced than often presumed.”

These welfare reforms are typically presented as being in tune with a ‘hardening’ of public attitudes to ‘welfare’ over time. This picture is challenged in a recently published special issue of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice which draws together research exploring attitudes and experiences of ‘welfare’.

What this research shows is that attitudes to ‘welfare’ are much more complex and nuanced than often presumed. Further, it illustrates the reach and extent of benefits stigma and the ways in which this stigma impacts upon how those in receipt of out-of-work benefits see themselves, see others and are seen by others.

Key findings from the special issue were debated at a policy roundtable in the House of Lords in December 2016, organised by the Social Policy Association (SPA), Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, and jointly chaired by Baroness Lister of Burtersett (representing the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice’s editorial board) and Alison Garnham (Chief Executive of CPAG).

Contributors to the special issue were joined by experts from Parliament, central and local government, the media, the third sector and think tanks. The roundtable debate unpacked some of the very real political challenges faced by those looking to make the case for a more expansive vision for social security in the UK today.

Much campaigning activity in recent years has focused on fact-checking based ‘mythbusting’ but participants made a number of suggestions for shifting attitudes which go beyond this approach,  including a greater focus on individual stories and using social media to engage specific groups in discussion and debate.

“…need to focus political debate more fully on the human costs of ‘welfare reform’…”

Indeed, the efficacy of ‘mythbusting’ was subject to much comment and Baumberg Geiger and Meuleman offer a critical evaluation of the approach in the special issue. Some argued there was a need to focus political debate more fully on the human costs of ‘welfare reform’; for example, in terms of poor mental health or people living in poverty and increasingly destitution. Several of the papers in the special issue explore lived experiences of ‘welfare reform’, including papers by Patrick, who reports findings from qualitative longitudinal research with out-of-work benefit claimants, and Garthwaite, who reports findings from ethnographic research undertaken in foodbanks.

Others suggested there was a need to move away from making the case for social security and to focus instead on the reasons why individuals may become reliant on it: for example, significant numbers of people engaged in low paid, precarious work or underlying stigma to groups typically excluded from the labour market. Many papers in the special issue explore such debates, for instance Wincup and Monaghan focus on dependent drug users and the ways in which stigma often acts as a barrier to recovery.

Finally, there was also much discussion about the extent to which contemporary attitudes really are ‘harder’ than those in the past, with significant continuities in discourse and attitudes being identified. Hudson, Lunt et al explore these themes in their contribution to the special issue, tracing the continuities in pejorative attitudes to ‘welfare’ from the ‘golden age’ of welfare through to today’s debates.


The ‘Exploring ‘welfare’ attitudes and experiences’ special issue of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice was guest edited by John Hudson (University of York), Ruth Patrick (University of Liverpool) and Emma Wincup (University of Leeds) and published in the Autumn 2016 volume of the journal.

You may also be interested in The truth about benefits sanctions by Ruth Patrick

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Blinded by science: when biology meets policy

Sue White and David Wastell, authors of Blinded by science out today, explain the rise of neuroscience and genetics and their influence and impact on social policy.

David Wastell

Sue White

“Biological sciences, particularly neuroscience and genomics, are currently in the ascent. These new ‘techno-sciences’ are increasingly seen to promise a theory of everything in the psychosocial realm.

Social policy has not been slow to conscript technological biology, and is making significant use of neuroscientific evidence to support particular claims about both the soaring potentialities and irreversible vulnerabilities of early childhood, and the proper responses of the state.

The far reaching implications of epigenetics

The last decades have also seen a profound shift in our understanding of biological processes and life itself.

Whereas genetics has conventionally focused on examining the DNA sequence (the genotype), the burgeoning field of epigenetics examines additional mechanisms for modifying gene expression in manifest behaviours, physical features, health status and so on (the phenotype).

It provides a conduit mediating the interaction of the environment on an otherwise immutable DNA blueprint, and invites a natural interest in the impact of adverse conditions, such as deprivation or ‘suboptimal’ parenting. The implications of this for social policy are far reaching.

Continue reading ‘Blinded by science: when biology meets policy’

Telling the truth about Baby P: Ray Jones on the impact of his book

Ray

Ray Jones

As part of our focus on impact for Academic Book Week, author Ray Jones talks about the terrible and tragic death of Peter Connelly, the devastating fallout for the social work profession, and how his book, The Story of Baby P, has made a difference.

The terrible and tragic death of 17 month old Peter Connelly in Haringey, North London, in August 2007 became a major media story in November 2008 when his mother and two men were found guilty of ‘causing or allowing’ Peter’s death.

To avoid prejudicing a further trial, when one of the men was convicted of raping a little girl, the media was not allowed to publish Peter’s real name so he became known as ‘Baby P’. The press, politicians and police worked together on shaping the ‘Baby P story’ so that it targeted social workers and their managers who were described by The Sun newspaper as having ‘blood on their hands’.

The police and health services faded unseen and uncriticised to the margins of the media coverage, although it is now known that there were significant failings and omissions in their contacts with the Connelly family.

‘A campaign for justice’

It was The Sun newspaper and its editor, Rebekah Brooks, who had full page ‘Baby P’ stories day-after-day as she ran ‘a campaign for justice’ demanding the sackings of the social workers, their managers and, in particular, Sharon Shoesmith, Haringey Council’s director of children’s services.

“A shameful and sordid bullying use of Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid power.”

Continue reading ‘Telling the truth about Baby P: Ray Jones on the impact of his book’

Moving into policing – as a leader and a learner

maggie-blyth

Maggie Blyth

Maggie Blyth, author of some of our best-selling texts on children at risk has recently taken her extensive experience working in local and national government to a Direct Entry Superintendent role in the police. In this blog post, originally posted on Maggie’s own blog on 7 January, she talks about the experience so far. 

“A few weeks ago, after a lengthy application process, I became a police officer.

Not just a new job but a sweeping career change following 30 years immersed in another sector – formerly education, then youth justice, most latterly child protection. I feel deeply honoured to be entering a new career at the latter stage of my working life and to be joining a progressive police force, in such an important role, but I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead – for me it’s a two way process.

“I don’t underestimate the challenge ahead – for me it’s a two way process.”

Continue reading ‘Moving into policing – as a leader and a learner’


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