Posts Tagged 'families'

The extent of poverty

By Gill Main, co-editor, with Esther Dermott, of the first volume of Poverty and Social Exclusion in the UK and University Academic Fellow at the University of Leeds.

Originally published by Poverty and Social Exclusion on November 29th 2017. 

The UK-wide Poverty and Social Exclusion survey (PSE-UK) in 2012 revealed startling levels of deprivation. Eighteen million people are unable to afford adequate housing; fourteen million can’t afford essential household goods; and nearly half the population have some form of financial insecurity.

When compiling Poverty and Exclusion in the UK: the nature and extent of the problem, the first of the two-volume study based on this research, Esther Dermott and I were interested in what lay behind these top-level figures. How are different groups within the UK population affected? How do people experience poverty?

Drawing on the large-scale, representative data of this PSE-UK survey, leading experts in the field provide detailed insights into how poverty affects younger and older people; men and women; people from different ethnic backgrounds; children and parents; people with disabilities; and people in different geographical locations.

It is a stark picture: poverty, defined as those whose lack of resources and low-income forces them to live below a publicly agreed minimum standard, is affecting over one in five people – and over one in four children. Vulnerable groups are suffering disproportionately. These findings are deeply concerning; especially in light policy changes since 2012 which have already – and will continue to – push more and more vulnerable people into ever deeper poverty.

The PSE-UK approach – by combining deprivation (lacking necessities) with low-income – allows us to examine poverty in fine detail and throws light on the many ways in which poverty affects people’s lives, often obscured by less nuanced measures. In addition, the large sample of the survey – combined with the decision to interview all individual adult members of a household rather than a single household representative – has enabled us to identify new patterns in vulnerability to poverty among different groups.

Christina Pantazis and Saffron Karlsen, for example, present a detailed breakdown of the ways in which people from a wide range of ethnic background might experience poverty. Esther Dermott and Christina Pantazis show that men and women experience different types of vulnerability to poverty at different life stages. Pauline Heslop and Eric Emerson demonstrate that ‘disability’ cannot be treated as a homogenous characteristic, and people with different kinds of disability experience poverty in different ways. Gill Main and Jonathan Bradshaw disaggregate data on poverty within families with children, finding that while children are at the highest risk of poverty of all age groups, parents are likely to sacrifice their own needs to provide for children, making them even more vulnerable to lacking the necessities of life.

The book also highlights areas where more development is desperately needed: a theme running through many chapters is how to include the experiences and perspectives of diverse and heterogeneous groups while maintaining a comparable measure of poverty. Arguments are made for considering the unique situations of young people (Eldin Fahmy), people with disabilities (Pauline Heslop and Eric Emerson), and older people (Demi Patsios). As approaches to poverty measurement develop over time more groups have been represented in surveys – but there is still work to be done, for example in the inclusion of children’s own perspectives, rather than a reliance solely on parental reports on children’s experiences (Gill Main and Jonathan Bradshaw). A fuller representation of the needs, experiences and reports of these groups would further enhance our understanding of poverty and how it impacts the lives of those unlucky enough to experience it.

The UK PSE survey 2012 was conducted, and this book compiled, amidst an assault on the welfare state – in the guise of austerity politics – which have decimated the support available for those living on a low income. While we can only provide a snapshot of a single point in time, policy changes strongly suggest that if the survey were conducted today, findings would be even more stark. This poses serious concerns and questions about the effects of continued reductions in state support for people vulnerable to poverty and social exclusion.

People across the social groups examined in the volume are, among many other deprivations, going hungry, lacking adequate clothing, and living in low-quality housing which may impact their health in the present and in the future. Unsurprisingly, many of the chapters highlight the impact on well-being, both physical and mental, resulting from this. Shame is a common feeling among those without adequate resources – which is exacerbated by policy and media representations of the ‘undeserving’ poor and itself exacerbates a reluctance among people in poverty to seek the meagre and ever-decreasing state help that is available to them through the social security system.

We conclude the book with key messages for academics, policy makers, practitioners, and the media. A national reassessment of how poverty is represented, discussed, and addressed is overdue. We believe that the data and analysis presented in the volume offer valuable insight into the issues of poverty and social exclusion in the UK, and hope that the book will make a contribution to changing attitudes and, ultimately, to developing policy and practice more likely to effectively reduce and eliminate poverty in the UK.

 

Poverty and social exclusion in the UK edited by Esther Dermott and Gill Main is available with 20% discount on the Policy Press website. Order here for just £19.99.

Find out more about impact, influence and engagement at Policy Press here.

Policy Press newsletter subscribers receive a 35% discount – sign up here.

The views and opinions expressed on this blog site are solely those of the original blog post authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the Policy Press and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Theorising and understanding grandparents: why now?

Evolving demographic, economic and social contexts across the globe are creating diverse societies. As a result, grandparenting has become a more commonly experienced and important familial role and one that is more varied and distinctive than it was 50 years ago.  Within these contexts individuals are doing grandparenting in very different ways. These doing’s (or the practices of grandparenting) are strongly influenced by global trends, cultural norms and welfare policies but are also cross cut by individual circumstances and social inequalities including gender, age, martial status, class and access to material resources.

Contemporary Grandparenting, a new book from The Policy Press, explores and emphasizes the interconnectedness of these social-cultural structures and norms, and the practices of grandparents. Some of these trends and responses are explored below:

Ageing and fertility

Increasing mortality and decreasing fertility rates characterize contemporary demographics in both the West and developing nations to varying extents, creating more dynamic and variable family relationships and care patterns.  Media commentators have a tendency to interpret these changes as being about ageing population crises. China, for example faces what Branigan defines as a ‘timebomb’; it is ageing, and at the same time there are reportedly fewer younger people who are able to or willing to care for their elderly family members.  In the UK, this crisis has been described as a significant contemporary economic threat.

However, children and grandchildren have also been found to rely upon their older and ageing grandparents for financial support and other informal forms of care. Part One of Contemporary Grandparenting, nuances this debate by revealing that grandparents are central to supporting the increased participation of women in the workplace, but that this is strongly influenced by welfare policy contexts, which must also be taken into consideration.

Changing ‘family’ structures

‘Family’ is changing; the prevalence of marriage breakdown, divorce and separation, (considered particularly problematic in the UK, the US and parts of Northern Europe, but less so in China and Asia and some southern parts of Europe) has differing implications for how intergenerational relationships are negotiated and interpreted.

The impact of divorce also has varying outcomes in relation to grandparenting; grandparents have been found to cause additional damage in situations of divorce, while others suggest they should have greater rights in being able to adopt grandchildren. Timonen and Doyles’ chapter, in Part Two of the book particularly nuances these arguments by revealing that grandparents make active choices about their level of involvement in the lives of their children and grandchildren and that this does not always sit comfortably with wider welfare contexts.

Global Trends

As well as increasing the importance of grandparenting in family contexts, the authors are keen to acknowledge the role of globalization in altering the family relationships that grandparenting is embedded in. As well as demographic change, societies are characterized by increased geographical mobility, changing trends in paid employment (especially including women’s participation in the labour force) and the increased uptake of communication technologies. Taken together, these trends are altering the ways in which individuals respond to their role and identities as grandparents, as several of the chapters explore.

Contemporary Grandparenting

A significant message of this essential edited collection is that grandparents often act with agency to negotiate increasingly dynamic intergenerational relationships in changing familial and social structures, playing a major role in the provision of care, maintaining and establishing well being and supporting changing families. Speaking to an interdisciplinary audience, this collection significantly brings grandparents into debates about family, welfare state, population ageing and identities.

Anna Tarrant, Contributor to Contemporary Grandparenting
Research Associate in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at the Open University.

The lives of families in their own words

Family futures coverFamily futures is about family life in areas of concentrated poverty and social problems, areas where it is difficult to bring up children and where surrounding conditions make family life more fraught and more limited. Families are at the forefront of change and progress as children are our common future, and what we do to them today will shape all our tomorrows. In poorer communities many strands of disadvantage combine because one problem compounds another, making these areas unpopular with families with choice. Yet low-income families need affordable housing above all, so they cluster in estates of social housing in the most problematic areas. A sense of belonging or community becomes vital because most low income families do not have cars, so they are dependent on local services and connections for most of their family needs and activities.

These neighbourhoods have long been poor, working class areas; their large estates were a product of earlier slum clearance and rebuilding before and after the Second World War. The proportion of newcomers, usually migrants from abroad, in all the areas has grown rapidly since the 1980s, following the loss of traditional local jobs and better housing options elsewhere for local families with more choice. This has compounded the pressures on already disadvantaged areas.

Parents with little choice about where they live have a stronger than average concern about their neighbourhoods. They try to control and shape their immediate surroundings but they rely not just on who their neighbours are and what family members they live near, but on wider structures and services that they cannot shape on their own. All the areas have many local facilities and services, added incrementally over years of effort to improve social conditions and reduce neighbourhood problems, but the overall condition of all the areas is poor. We talked to 200 families over ten years from 1998 to 2008, collecting their views on community problems and on how the areas changed during that time.

This book relies on the words of families themselves to answer three important questions:

What are the main challenges facing families in poor areas?

How are the areas changing and the challenges being met?

Have government efforts helped or hindered progress over the past decade?

Since 1998, many public and private initiatives have targeted area conditions and low income families, but it is rare to hear what families give their views on what works and doesn’t work, explain what helps and what hinders their children’s progress, what gaps there are and what new approaches may help. Parents have both positive and negative experiences of neighbourhood services and programmes in the most difficult areas; we point to the conspicuous gaps still waiting to be closed. Therefore, behind our questions about bringing up children in low income areas lie much bigger worries:

What future do families face in disadvantaged areas?

How far is the wider society responsible for that future?

Family futures by Anne Power, Helen Willmot and Rosemary Davidson, publishing this month, shows how responsibility can be shared.

Community Care Live 2010

Just back from a busy Community Care Live 2010 – it was great to meet lots of social workers and students and to network with delegates and other exhibitors. I attended a very interesting keynote from Dr Maggie Atkinson – the Children’s Commissioner for England only two months in post – on Wednesday morning. She seems genuinely committed to being a “champion for children” and was an engaging speaker to a sadly limited number of delegates (10am too early perhaps?!).

She outlined her current priorities, which included working with ‘resistant’ families and gaining children’s perspectives on safeguarding. She also said that she accepted the need of the children’s workforce (including social work) for training and development to be able to provide more effective services for children.

Dr Atkinson was able to report that on Tuesday she had met officially for the first time with the new Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP. Several delegates at CC Live had grumbled concern that the change of department title from Children, Schools and Families back to Education signalled the new government’s intention to deprioritise the wider range work with children and families, including social work. Dr Atkinson said that she felt the Secretary of State was equally committed to children and families, that there was no apparent change to the remit of the department and that there was no intention to rescind Every Child Matters (so get to grips with it if you need to by reading Making sense of Every Child Matters!). She also said that she was impressed with the new government’s early commitment to ending detention for refugee and asylum seeking children.

In line with what other experienced practitioners were saying at the conference, when asked what one priority she would encourage Michael Gove to take on board it was (appropriately) to “not to throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Perhaps we should send him a package of Policy Press books so he can swot up on some evidence of good and not so good policy and practice!

Karen Bowler, Senior Commissioning Editor, The Policy Press


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Twitter Updates

Archives

Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print.

The work on the Policy Press blog is licensed under a Creative Commons licence.