Memorandum submitted by NSPCC (CP 14)
The NSPCC is the UK's leading charity specialising
in child protection and the prevention of cruelty to children.
We serve some of the poorest communities in the UK and some of
the most excluded children.
The NSPCC exists to end cruelty to children
through a range of activities designed to:
help children who have suffered abuse
overcome the effects of such harm;
prevent children from suffering abuse;
prevent children from suffering significant
harm as a result of ill-treatment;
help children who are at risk of
such harm; and
work to protect children from further
Poverty is a key risk factor which increases
the vulnerability of families to stress and makes the possibility
of physical abuse and neglect more likely. That is why NSPCC is
determined that there must be national action to end child poverty.
Child cruelty will not be eradicated unless
child poverty is ended. Child abuse is a key risk factor that
increases the likelihood of poverty and disadvantage in later
life. The NSPCC welcomes the Government's pledge to end child
poverty within a generation, and the lifting of half a million
children out of poverty between 1997 and 2003. Nonetheless, 3.8
million children, a quarter of all children, remain in poverty,
and are going without basics such as warm winter coats and properly
The harmful effects of poverty on children are
well documented. There is an established association between poverty
and prenatal and infant mortality, malnutrition and ill-health,
child accidents, low educational attainment, delinquency and teenage
pregnancy. This disadvantage is very often reinforced across generations.
Black and minority ethnic children are particularly disadvantaged
and are disproportionately represented in the poorest fifth of
the UK population.
Poverty is closely related with social exclusionthat
is, it excludes people from the opportunities available to the
average citizen in areas such as health, education, employment
Poverty is also associated with physical abuse
and neglect, although the association between poverty and child
abuse is not a simple matter of cause and effect. Child abuse
occurs across all classes and its actual causes are complex. Nevertheless,
most children on child protection registers are from low-income
families and the most commonly identified stress factors in all
registered cases of child abuse are unemployment and debt, which
are closely related to poverty.
The pressures involved in coping with inadequate
income cause stress, which can exacerbate the health problems
associated with poor diet, inadequate heating and poor housing.
Such pressures also increase the likelihood of family tension
and breakdown. In such circumstances, emotional abuse, physical
abuse and neglect are more likely. Child abuse rates tend to be
higher in deprived neighbourhoods, where poverty is concentrated,
support services are inadequate and social exclusion is marked.
Article 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child defines as a minimum acceptable way of life to which
every child is entitled: a standard of living adequate for the
child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development.
Despite some advances in recent years, the UK is some way from
securing that entitlement for all children.
The NSPCC has worked closely with the Department
for Work and Pensions on the measurement of poverty, and responded
to the Department's consultation on the measurement of child poverty.
The NSPCC's primary concern is for a clear, simple measure that
is easily understood and readily understood by all. This is vital
in order to raise awareness of child poverty and secure public
commitment to investing in tackling child poverty.
More specifically, a measure of child poverty
should be based on income since not having enough money is at
the heart of child poverty. This should be a measure of both relative
income, in order to reflect that poverty is about children not
having what other children have, and of absolute income, since
poverty is also about not having basics. But it should also include
a measure of how long children have been in poverty, since the
persistence of poverty is indicative of the effect it will have
on a child's life. It is also important to measure the depth of
poverty, which is whether the children are living in poverty are
near to the poverty line or far below it.
So to summarise, a long-term measure of child
poverty should include:
Persistence of poverty.
Depth of povertyinequality.
The measure should also seek to capture the
less easily measured aspects of a child's experience of poverty,
or at least cross-reference to the Children and Young People's
Unit Indicators. These would include the effects of being poor,
such as reduced expectations, learning to be poor, loss of opportunity,
poverty of hope, feeling excluded as well as more general measures
of wellbeing. It is important to measure these aspects because
they relate to outcomes rather than outputs such as health, education
and parenting support.
If we are truly seeking to measure child poverty
and not just to measure what is readily measured, or what government
is able to do to end child poverty, we also need to think about
measuring what other parts of society can do to end child poverty.
This should include the role of business, which could capture
work-life balance issues for low paid workers, and their impact
on children, and the role of unions, the media, and faith communities.
Finally, in measuring child poverty we should
not only set a poverty line but also a minimum income threshold
below which no child should fall. This would be based on the basic
minimum income necessary to maintain the health and wellbeing
of children, as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child. This was one of the calls in the Children's Manifesto,
produced by NSPCC, Barnardos and CPAG and signed up to by over
80 voluntary organisations.
The Government has made a considerable impact
on child poverty through changes to the tax and benefits system
and through locally based programmes such as Sure Start and Children's
Fund. As partners in delivering Sure Start in over 20 communities
and Children's Fund in 10 we see the difference these programmes
make in turning round the lives of children and their families.
However these programmes only reach a proportion of the 3.8 million
children living in poverty. The Government's work needs to be
joined up in a National Strategy for tackling child poverty, financial
support through the tax and benefits system needs to be increased,
and finally government needs to tackle the effects of poverty
on children through building emotional capital.
The Government should introduce an improved
system of financial support for all children and young people.
This should include:
an established minimum income standard
necessary to maintain the health and well-being of children as
outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
an end to discrimination against
young people in the benefits system;
reform of the Social Fund to give
families access to grants to pay for essentials like beds and
cookers and to alleviate the problems created by debt;
an increase in maternity and paternity
benefits and in paid parental leave;
an increase in Child Tax Credits
by £3 per week, which is necessary to guarantee meeting the
Government's commitment to reduce child poverty by 25% by 2004,
as estimated by the Institute of Fiscal Studies;
to provide extra support for large
families, and to meet the extra essential costs of disability
equal treatment of refugee and asylum seeking families in the
Children's voices are easily lost in the allocation
of public spending. If we are to redress the situation where one
in four children in our country live in poverty, we need to commit
public resources to this end.
Social FundThe NSPCC strongly
agrees with the Social Security Select Committee in its Third
Report on the Social Fund in 2001, which concluded that "the
scheme in its present format needs urgent overhaul and an injection
of funds. Without such action, there is a strong possibility that
the wider social policy objectives of the Government will be endangered".
Reform of the Social Fund is central to a strategy
for ending child poverty. Consequently, the NSPCC would argue
for an increase in grants, rather than loans that plunge families
into a spiral of debt, and greater flexibility around the repayment
of loans. In order to target children specifically, our recommendations
to government include:
Fixed stage payments at key stages
of a child's development, such as when they start primary school.
An increase in the discretionary
Social Fund to provide grants to meet additional costs incurred
for children at crisis points when they are particularly vulnerable,
such as when they move house in the aftermath of domestic violence.
Winter Fuel payments for families
with pre-school children, just like those received by pensioners.
Refugee and asylum seeking familiesLevels
of financial support to refugee and asylum seeking children and
families are lower than granted to income support claimants. It
is difficult to see why they should receive a lower level of support,
since refugee children and their families have the same basic
daily living needs as other UK residents. The NSPCC is concerned
that asylum-seeking families are receiving grossly inadequate
subsistence support and believes that there should be equal entitlement
to benefits. Furthermore, asylum-seeking families are denied access
to key passported benefits, such as milk tokens, free vitamins,
Social Fund grants and loans.
A NATIONAL STRATEGY
In order to reduce and eradicate child poverty,
covering its responsibility to UK children in all jurisdictions,
the Government should ensure a continuing commitment to the reduction
and eradication of child poverty and produce a coherent national
strategy to deliver this commitment. A National Strategy should
describe how government intends to deliver on the Prime Minister's
pledge to end child poverty within a generation. This would increase
the accountability of government on its poverty pledge.
The Government has made significant progress
in tackling child poverty, with a range of initiatives such as
Sure Start and the Children's Fund as well as through changes
to the tax and benefits system. However, a National Strategy would
ensure that all relevant government
departments are working systematically towards the pledge to end
child poverty with a strategic approach, and with the explicit
backing of the Cabinet, the Chancellor and the Prime Minister;
outline the Government's medium to
long-term policies and key milestones in relation to the eradication
of child poverty;
bring together in one document, preventative
and ameliorative policies, across government, which aim to improve
outcomes for children living in poverty; including how to get
support to the hardest to reach children, such as disabled children
and homeless children; and
identify the roles to be played by
other agencies (for example, local government, social services)
in ending child poverty.
AccountabilityA National Strategy
on Child Poverty would provide a clear route map of what government
is seeking to achieve. It would provide parameters by which to
judge it. The strategy would also increase the accountability
of government on its poverty pledge to Parliament and to children,
young people and families living in poverty.
The NSPCC also recommends independent monitoring
arrangements for the strategy's implementation. This could be
part of the new structural arrangements for overseeing services
for children at national level emerging from proposals in the
forthcoming Green Paper on children at risk.
A pledge for all children in the UKThe
Prime Minister's pledge to end child poverty applies to all the
nations of the UK. A National Strategy would help to bring together
policies across the four nations and ensure child poverty is addressed
throughout the UK, whilst acknowledging the different constitutional
arrangements. The Strategy would enable the UK to meet its commitment.
Social exclusion is caused by multiple factors
and will have diverse impacts on individuals and communities.
Reducing material deprivation combats some of these elements and
area-based initiatives may enable a community to develop social
capital. However, such interventions often fail to reach those
most in need. They also fail to tackle the residual emotional
or psychological effects of poverty and social exclusion. The
residual effects may prevent children and young people developing
social capital or human capital, ie educationally.
NSPCC services work with children and young
people to prevent or overcome the effects of abuse and neglect.
Much of this work is focused on building resilience, which fits
with the current understanding of vulnerability and the ecological
approach to child development. Building resilience includes a
number of elements but involves improving self-esteem, self-efficacy,
and developing a repertoire of social problem solving approaches.
Improved resilience is instrumental in overcoming abuse and the
feeling of isolation and exclusion which can result from it.
From a livelihood's perspective, this work can
also be seen as adding to a "portfolio of capital".
By increasing a child or young person's "emotional capital",
NSPCC services are enabling children and young people to develop
skills which will help them combat social exclusion in the present
and poverty during later life.
Similar interventions may be very useful in
helping other children who are feeling socially excluded or isolated
due to poverty. Improved resilience or emotional capital would
enable children and young people to develop good relationships
with a wide range of their peers and adults, thus adding to their
social capital. Building emotional capital is likely to improve
school performance and therefore educational attainments, which
in turn are likely to result in higher financial capital later
in life and reduce vulnerability to poverty. While all types of
"capital" are important, building emotional capital
is likely to be particularly critical for combating intergenerational
nature of poverty and social exclusion.
10 September 2003
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