Posted: 21 August 2017

The realities of an endless summer for disadvantaged children

The childhood memory of what seemed to be an endless summer, where it never rained and there was freedom to roam, explore and play, is an abiding treasure that many adults hold on to. As we trundle into work we can be a little jealous of children and young people finishing school and looking ahead to weeks of fun.

But weeks of doing nothing is not quite the same as weeks of nothing to do. The former comes from a position of choice and the latter is, for far too many children and young people, a prospect that makes an endless summer a challenge.

Over the last three years I have been interviewing children and young people in poverty as part of a longitudinal study we have been running with the University of Bath. The research explores the lives of children who contend with the multiple challenges of growing up in a poor household.

Children are staying indoors

The cost of summer activities and holidays is a burden for many working parents and families, but for those already struggling the option of paying for fun is even more limited. Children and young people have told me that school holidays are spent indoors. We might expect that children are outdoors and making use of local space and parks, but children have told me that the summer is also when adults are out more - adults who drink too much, who get loud and have fights and whose dogs always seem to be out. It doesn’t always feel safe to wander around and be in public spaces.

The long childhood summer that creates such fond memories is still a privilege

Meeting up with friends to walk around and perhaps create makeshift dens or ramps for bikes, or drawing on the pavements and skateboarding, are all activities that have been seen as anti-social. Children and young people can get in trouble for making their own entertainment. Having no money to make use of approved fun, not feeling safe in their local area and worrying about getting into trouble drives these children back indoors. Back into their rooms to go on-line, watch YouTube or message their friends.

A right to summer fun

The children in the books I read when I was young were privileged children, with money, who had freedom to roam, explore and make adventures. Times may have changed, but it seems to me that the long childhood summer that creates such fond memories is still a privilege, when really it should be a right.

find out more about our policy and research work on child poverty

By Jim Davis MBE - Church team
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