The way I see it
Tess Ridge has been Professor of Social Policy at the University of Bath since 2000. Her main research interests are childhood poverty and social exclusion; particularly exploring the experience of poverty and disadvantage from the perspectives of children themselves. Professor Ridge is one of the adult mentors to The Children’s Commission on Poverty.
How was your Christmas? For the majority of families it’s usually a time for celebration and fun. But while most children across the country enjoyed the festive season in warm houses and happy, secure environments, there are a substantial number of children who will have felt disappointed, insecure and uncertain about their futures.
The deepest cuts have been visited on some of the poorest children
After many years of research with children from low-income families, I am aware that the harsh hand of poverty is felt most keenly at times of celebration. Children try particularly hard to cover up from their friends and classmates that they will not be getting the gifts and delights expected by many of their peers at this time of the year.
These are hard times indeed; society is undergoing significant social and economic change as wider recession and economic crises are accompanied by ‘austerity’ policies and unprecedented cuts in welfare provision.
Sadly, the deepest cuts have been visited on some of the poorest children and their families. Parenting at such times is particularly stressful and demanding.
It is vital we listen to children’s experiences
All parents want the best for their children but, in this harsh economic climate, the poorest families are vulnerable to unemployment, employment insecurity, homelessness and instability.
It is vital under these conditions that we listen to children’s experiences and the issues that concern them, if we are to make a real difference in their lives.
I am, therefore, delighted that two new initiatives by The Children’s Society are set to play a significant role in our understanding of children’s lives as they negotiate these troubled times.
With this evidence we can start to make a real difference in children’s lives
The new Children’s Commission on Poverty (a panel of 15 children and teenagers from across England, ranging in age from 11 to 19) will provide us with valuable insight into children’s everyday lives and the challenges they face – through their own eyes.
The evidence from children and young people will also feed into the first, long-term study into low-income children’s lives in the UK. This ground-breaking research, listening to children over time, will follow a group of children from low-income families over a number of years as they negotiate their lives at school, home and in their neighbourhoods. It will provide a unique insight into the challenges and demands that a low- income childhood can present for children.
I am sure that, with this evidence, we can start to make a real difference and improve children’s lives over the longer term.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinion of The Children’s Society.