Understanding the nature and scale of child poverty
I was standing in the foyer of Lewisham’s Clyde Early Childhood Centre, waving goodbye to a little boy and his mum. They had attended the launch of the government’s consultation on measuring child poverty, an event we co-hosted with the government’s child poverty unit and Lewisham Council.
Just a couple of hours earlier, Matthew Reed, our Chief Executive, opened the event by talking about the devastating effect of child poverty on children and their families. He spoke of the tough decisions that working and non-working families have to make on a daily basis to provide their children with the basics.
Then work and pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith and education minister David Laws launched the consultation, confirming that income will continue to remain central to any measurement, but poverty is about much more.
The ministers highlighted the need to raise the aspirations of children and their parents, as well as the importance of learning from what works at a local level, to understand the nature of the challenge and to measure the impact of policy and programmes.
What do we mean by poverty?
After the event we held a workshop with practitioners and families in Lewisham to talk about some of the themes raised at the launch. We really appreciated so many parents staying behind to share their experiences and take part in the discussions.
Working in small groups we talked about a wide range of topics including income, education and health. Parents spoke passionately about aspirations for their children, such as going to a good school, living in a supportive community, accessing quality healthcare and being able to achieve their potential.
Parents also spoke about the importance of receiving support with childcare and basic costs, enabling them to move into work that could improve their family’s life.
Of course, low income is at the heart of child poverty. A mum at the workshop said: 'You want to be something, you want to give your children what they need to get on in life, but I'm constantly saying "no" (to my son), he misses out on so much.'
The consultation provides a valuable opportunity to have an open discussion on the factors affecting families in poverty, including poor housing, affordable childcare and being able to get decent jobs. But, as Matthew Reed highlighted at the launch, 'this must be accompanied by immediate and effective action to help the families living in poverty now.'