Poverty or rights, closing the gap between rights and realities in children??™s livesMA Sociology of Childhood and Children??™s RightsJonathan HannaThis dissertation may be available to the general public for borrowing, photocopying or consultation without the prior consent of the author2Poverty or rights, closing the gap between rights and realities in children??™s lives.AbstractThis dissertation examines the interrelationship between children??™s rights and child poverty in the UK. Children??™s rights have become a significant field of study in the past two decades, following the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989.
Similarly child poverty has taken a central role in policy debates as it becomes a central signifier of effective welfare and social mobility. However the literature of rights and poverty are not aligned . This dissertation proposes such an alignment through focussing on child poverty whilst expanding the definition of child poverty to be about power, rather than strict income based measures.Although addressing adult outcomes is an essential part of tackling poverty in childhood, it is the contention of this dissertation that we also develop a deeper, more meaningful awareness and understanding of the everyday realities of childhood poverty. This should be grounded in children??™s own experiences and meanings. This is why an absolute focus on poverty is a fundamental precept to any narrative about rights.The dissertation is in 5 parts, the introduction sets out the core hypothesises and the structure that will be used; the literature review examines how and why poverty and rights have been conceptualised in the dominant narratives. The dissertation then moves to examine primary research, setting out the methods used to engage groups of young people in their understandings of poverty and rights before analysing and discussing these.
Finally conclusions are drawn which suggest a reduction of child poverty would be the key to empower children and enhance their rights.23ContentsContents PagePage numberAbstract2Introduction4Literature Review14Research Methods31Conclusions53Bibliography58Annex A: A summary on the rights of the child. Annex B: Primary research survey results.Word count: 1894334Poverty or rights, closing the gap between rights and realities in children??™s lives.???The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty.??? (George Bernard Shaw: Major Barbara 1905)IntroductionThe goals of social investment, child focused policy making and international development efforts in respect to children are clear. They are to improve livelihoods; to reduce poverty; and to support children to live in accordance with their rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), 1990. Poverty is a devastating affliction.
It is estimated that globally over 8 million children under the age of 5 die with poverty as a cause (Black et al 2010). UNICEF estimates that in half of these cases malnutrition is a contributory cause (UNICEF 2002). Almost a third of children live in squalid housing conditions (Pemberton et al 2012) and over 400 million children drink from unsafe open water sources (Gordon et al 2003). The premise of children living happy and healthy lives, as envisioned in the CRC seems far from this reality.UK child poverty is the focus of this dissertation. Despite its status as one of the most developed nations, the UK faces surprisingly high levels of poverty and disadvantage.
It is estimated that 2.8 million children (22 per cent of all children) are in relative income poverty (OECD 2008), as defined by the UK government, who also estimated in 2008/091 that 1.6 million children (12 per cent) live in absolute poverty (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 2010).1The government??™s measure of material deprivation and low income refers to the proportion of children in households with incomes below 70 per cent of median household income and who experience material deprivation (a lack of basic goods and services). The measurement of poverty is something we will discuss below in detail.45 In 2009, the UK was rated above the OECD inequality average for material well-being, although it was ranked close to the OECD inequality average in both education and health well-being (OECD 2008).
This put the UK in the group of countries in the bottom two-fifths for overall inequality, which as poverty is often defined in relative terms, is problematic for measures of poverty in the UK. The reason such figures are extremely problematic for the UK is that poverty in the UK is associated with a range of poor outcomes. Children growing up experiencing poverty are more likely to experience educational failure, ill health, mental illness and fall into the criminal justice system (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister 2010).
There are also a number of stress factors associated with poverty, for example children who live in social housing are 3 times more likely to suffer from mental illness then those in privately owned housing (Fabien Commission report 2006) and there are explicit links between low attainment at school and poverty.So, it is clear that poverty is a real problem in the UK, especially for children, and there is consensus for working to reduce it. The fundamental question is ???how??™ We aim to use this dissertation to ask, and provide some answer to four questions, the first three leading unto the fourth:1. What is poverty, and particularly what is childhood poverty 2. How does child poverty create a barrier to the realisation of a child??™s rights 3.
What are the other barriers 4. Would poverty reduction or eradication make children more likely to be successful rights holders; or would children who were enabled to be more successful rights holders make poverty reduction more achievable and successfulThe ambition for each section of the dissertation is to discuss and provide answers to each of these questions, so that we can work towards a detailed and final discussion and in our conclusion achieve a resolution. In each chapter, we will consider each question; firstly to explain why these questions have been chosen, secondly to clarify the understanding of 56 them that will be taken throughout, and finally to establish how discussion of these questions can lead us to our ultimate aim of concluding with an answer to the overall question.What is poverty, and particularly what is childhood poverty???All cultures seem to have a concept and definition of poverty.??™ (Gordon and Spicker 1999: 150)The discourse on defining and understanding poverty is detailed, controversial and complicated (Harding et al, forthcoming).
There are conflicting and confusing aspects to poverty (O??™Boyle 1999). The key first clarification is that for the purpose of this dissertation we will be using the UK context in discussion of poverty and childhood poverty ??“ although at appropriate and relevant points we will use international examples to illustrate or compare. It is often easier to comprehend and argue for children??™s rights for those children in most urgent need in developing country contexts; but children??™s rights can increase child, and adult, wellbeing everywhere.
(Alderson 2001)Within the UK context, the debate has centred on relative measures of poverty (Tomlinson et al 2007), which are assessed using primarily econometric tools. During the literature review below we will discuss the different methodologies used in poverty analysis, as this will help us later when we come to discuss how poverty reduction could be the key to unlocking children??™s rights.The symbiotic nature of the relationship between poverty and children??™s rights seems obvious, however when we come to the literature review we may suggest that economic and social rights have tended to fade into the background of the rights discourse, as against the prominence of the ???3p??™s??? of participation, protection, and provision.
The particular dimensions of poverty in a context where work and remuneration are very restricted for children 67 (Bourdillon 2006) will also be discussed. There is a discrepancy between childhood experiences of poverty and the policy measures and debates on the issue. The narrative centres on a family or neighbourhood??™s socio-economic level which positions a child as an adjunct of their parent or family.In the UK (with relevance elsewhere) defining poverty is a critical and contested issue. The main proxy used for identifying if a child lives in poverty is a binary indicator, with significant implications. Free school meals are either assigned to a child or not, there is no spectrum or scale.
Therefore it is a measure of limited efficacy (Kounali et al 2010) when attempting to support an understanding of the implications of living in poverty, but will be used, in addition to other measures through this dissertation, as it has ???currency.??? It is a very well understood term, especially amongst the participants of this research, and in terms of ensuring the validity of research, it is a stable measure: ???We have no data on the social class of the parents of children in school at age 11, so we proxy social class by whether or not the pupil is in receipt of FSM??¦ This is an approximation, but …
FSM status is relatively stable ??¦??™ (DFES 2005:22)In addition to the economic measures, poverty is also about power. As much as it is a percentage of median income, or an amount of dollars per day, or predicated on the eligibility for a state benefit, poverty is a relative, relational term. Poverty is an excellent example of this in relation to children. To examine this let us start with an understanding of power as:???Power is the right to have your definition of reality prevail over other people.??? (Rower 1989: 16, quoted in Chambers 2009: 15).2The Department that has responsibility for young people, and in particular their education has changed guises twice in the last 15 years. The current Department for Education (DFE) was formerly the Departmnet for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) which superseded the Department for Education and Skills (DFES).
The change in name does reflect changes in approach and focus, with some relevance for the researcher in this area. For the purposes of clarity, when referencing the name at the time of publication has been used.78 Or, using Foucault??™s analogy, power is exercised as the way in which certain actions structure the field of other possible actions or understandings (Foucault 1982: 208). In asking children (both those who are defined as living in poverty, and those not ??“ using standard welfare measures) about their own experiences of poverty there is the danger of superimposing a narrative ??“ disempowering the children by impressing upon them the dominant narrative of poverty, or by later deconstructing their opinions and ideas and subsuming them into the same dominant narrative, and it is important to guard against this deconstruction. However, this is not to argue that standard measures are not valuable, and they will be used through the course of this dissertation, with appropriate caution.It is important to note that the current social dynamic is not static.
This dissertation is being written at a time of economic recession. Many charities, such as Save the Children and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have argued that a negative impact on families and children is already in evidence (Save the Children 2009; Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2012). This is affecting government targets for eradicating child poverty (Hirsch 2009), and effects conceptualisations of, and about, poverty.
In examining the distinctiveness of childhood poverty and children??™s experiences of poverty we will of course need to listen to the voices of young people themselves. Children are already socially constructed beings (Prout 2001), and risk being depicted as powerless and without agency. One of the challenges for this dissertation has been the question of how to avoid superimposing narratives when concepts such as poverty are not necessarily cocreated in the same way in children??™s social worlds.
There is a sense of haves and havenots, but they are not necessarily correlated to material wealth in quite the same way. This will be a discussion for the data analysis section, and will take us into children??™s perceptions of both poverty and rights.A note on important situations or categories that some young people find themselves in. It is accepted (DFE 2010) that some ???categories??? or particular situations that some children find 89 themselves in are particularly vulnerable ??“ both in terms of rights violations and the lived experience of poverty. Some examples of vulnerable situations or categories are: children in care; children with disabilities; those in the youth justice system; refugees; and homeless children. We will not focus on these (or other) specific groups because they often face specific and complex barriers to achieving their rights and would each require specific research in order to be able to tell their story appropriately. Also, more conceptually, many of these groups legally fall into the direct care of the state, and therefore are not directly relevant in terms of the argument of this essay that their rights would be more enabled if they ??“ and by association those with direct responsibly for their welfare (usually parents/carers) were taken out of poverty.
How does child poverty create a barrier to the realisation of a child??™s rights???Poverty needs to be seen not as a social problem, but as a violation of rights??™ (Hinkin 2001: 37).Critical for our understanding of the interrelationship between rights and poverty is a clear discussion of why poverty is so important for anyone who sees children as rights holders. Sometimes in policy this gets missed; because poverty is seen as a steady state parameter, which cannot be influenced or controlled.
This is patently not true, but before we progress on to discussing how poverty might be tackled we need to be clear on how and why poverty interacts and limits children??™s rights.???Child poverty can affect the extent to which the government fulfils the obligations contained in the convention on the rights of the child (CRC)??™ (NSPCC 2008: 1)In discussion of the first question above, it was stated that poverty can be about power. People experiencing the lived reality of poverty are disempowered, both materially through 910 what they can and cannot do, have and access; but also more abstractly. In social discourse, the media, and in well meaning social interventions those living in poverty are often ???othered??? (Buchowski 2006).Children living in poverty are doubly disempowered (Hendricks 2000). They experience both aspects of the disempowerment of poverty mentioned, and they acquire additional disempowerment through their status as children ??“ who are legally, culturally and economically disempowered in UK society. This is a point we will discuss in detail below, for now it is important to determine how important powerlessness is for any discussion of children??™s rights.
Although the prevailing sentiment discussed in relation to the CRC is ???the best interests of the child;??? any current discussion of rights in a UK context, where balancing the different rights of the child need not be an issue, will need to consider empowerment as a key theme.What are the other barriersPoverty is a barrier to rights (Fisher 2008: 186), both as a signifier of relative absence, and as a more metaphysical example of disempowerment. It is, though, not the only barrier to children being able to assume their full entitlement to rights. There are other barriers which we will need to explore if we are to be able to assess if it is worth focusing on poverty as a barrier. This will be a theme that comes out of the focus group and individual follow up interviews aspect of the research chapter.The literature on rights has identified key barriers, including choice or discrimination of adults, and societies (www.crin.org).
Other barriers which will be discussed include the invisibility of children from policy debates; tokenism; and a genuine lack of understanding and knowledge of children??™s rights and their implementation, including from children themselves (Kilkelly 2007: 62). These will be developed and detailed below, in the literature 1011 review. In the argument chapter we will need to reflect upon the causal nature of the different barriers and their relationship with each other. This will help us attempt to determine whether a focus on overcoming any of them would make a fundamental difference.Would poverty reduction or eradication make children more likely to be successful rights holders; or would children who were enabled to be more successful rights holders make poverty reduction more achievable and successful???We will not end cruelty to children without ending child poverty??™ (NSPCC 2008: 2)This is the essential question underpinning this dissertation.
It is the hypothesis of this dissertation that the previous questions, and the research methods will help to demonstrate that yes, a focus on poverty reduction for children in the UK would make a fundamental difference to the lives and rights of children (DWP 2010). This would need to take account of how we define poverty in a child-centred way, not purely in terms of family or neighbourhood income ??“ although this would have an effect on the measure. It will be hard to prove absolutely without creating a counterfactual social reality ??“ however, reason, combined with insight will lead us forward.To move in this direction, we will need to examine examples of ???right-aware??? poverty reduction, and examples of this from the literature ??“ and where possible (although they are limited) examples of ???child-right aware??? poverty reduction strategies. We will then, through the Literature and the primary research need to surface ideas and feedback that will help us understand what a more appropriate measure or set of measures would comprise and how realistic it would be to develop them for this outcome.There are 3 main arguments for using children??™s rights as a way into ending child poverty:1112 1. There is a legal argument (Gordon et al 2006), based on the CRC??™s requirement that states use all available resources to ensure the articles of the convention are upheld for every child. This would only be possible by ending child poverty.
2. There is an economic argument, that children who are enabled and empowered to be participative rights holders are more likely to be successful economically active citizens who will contribute to the national economy (Ife and Morley 2002). 3.
There is a moral argument, based on treating children as the members of society most deserving and in need of the state??™s protection of them as citizens. (Plan 2010)However, there are equally strong arguments for looking at the prism of child rights through the prism of poverty reduction. There are 3 strong arguments for taking this course of action 1. A legal argument, as many of the CRC provisions are really based on living a life free from poverty (rights to health, education, welfare).
2. The economic argument, it will be less costly (but equally or more beneficial) to start by taking children out of poverty then by atomising each right they should have access to and investing in enabling them to fully access it. 3. A moral or political argument, that poverty, especially in a developed nation such as the UK is effectively a form of massive de-prioritisation of an individual??™s welfare.These arguments, as with the wider discussions and analysis will take shape through the literature review below. Following that, the primary research section will be presented. The primary research is based on focus groups, with follow up interviews and a baseline of questionnaires to provide a combination of qualitative and (albeit on a relatively small scale) quantitative input. The aim for the primary research is to look at how children understand the relationship between poverty and rights.
The idea is that they will consider the relationship between socio-economic background and rights ??“ both for themselves, others in their ???social world??™ and more widely.1213 ?????¦ Qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomenon in terms of the meanings people bring to them.??™ (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000: 3).The children included as participants in the study are all students at Evelyn Grace Academy, a school the researcher has taught in for 2 years, located in the Coldharbour ward of Brixton. The researcher??™s role within the school has granted privileged access to the children, but it also carries risks, which are explored in the research design chapter below.The discussions and considerations which are suggested here, and detailed below, will lead into the conclusions which will return to our four initial questions, finishing on the core hypothesis of this dissertation. Most critically considering the measurement of poverty; and whether it would lead to improved outcomes for children if the primary focus of agencies and interventions for children were on poverty reduction as a way to enhance their rights, rather than starting with rights.
Prior to that discussion we will first examine the literature pertaining to these four questions, before discussing the research methods and outcomes.1314 Literature ReviewThe nuances, measurements and conceptualisations of poverty have been the subject of fierce, detailed and at times polemic debate and discussion (Harper 2003). This is especially in the context of two key events, firstly in the international context, the advent of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which set a series of ambitions which included a goal of halving extreme poverty3. The accepted definition for extreme poverty is living on less than $1 dollar a day (with adjustments made for purchasing power). The second key moment was the prioritisation given to child poverty by the 1997 Labour government and its primacy in the political agenda since then.
In 1999, the-then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, made a landmark speech in which he promised to eradicate child poverty ???within a generation??™, by 2020, partly in response to the rise in child poverty between 1979 and the 1990s.The government set a series of targets aimed at reducing and eventually eradicating child poverty, accompanied by a series of welfare reforms aimed at improving life chances and outcomes for children, including the Children Act 2004 and the implementation of the Every Child Matters agenda. Within the Department for Children Schools and Families (DCSF 4), the Child Poverty Unit was set up. These moments led to a greater need to understand and conceptualise poverty, against an equally pressing need to be able to measure and quantify poverty and child poverty in particular.What is poverty, and particularly what is childhood poverty The literature on poverty, especially UK poverty tends to split into measurement and alleviation. In this section of the literature review we will focus on measurement.3This automatically draws the reader into a question as to what makes extreme poverty, compared to ordinary poverty and whether it is ok for ever more people to live in ???ordinary??? poverty as long as they are not within the more ???extreme??? category.1415 Poverty at its most simple is an empirical, one dimensional indicator based on wealth or income.
Historically poverty has been defined by macroeconomic concepts such as labour market conditions, demographic changes and income related measurement (Van der Hoek 2005). This places a very strong emphasis on income that is still prevalent and places it at the heart of both measurement and policy solutions to child poverty. Since the mid-1980s there has been growing consensus that poverty needs to be measured, and tackled using a more multidimensional approach. (For example SEN 1992). This is even more of an issue when discussing childhood poverty where other approaches have challenged the hegemony of economics in determining and discussing poverty.
?????¦ Measuring child poverty can no longer be lumped together with general poverty assumptions??¦ focussing solely on income levels??™ (Gordon and Nandy 2003).A lot of the debate stems from the emergence of the human capability approach by Amaryta Sen (1992). He argues that there are fundamental ???freedoms??? that should be available to everyone ??“ based on political freedom, social opportunities, economic opportunities, personal security and openness. Sen??™s ???Freedoms,??? though are not the same as legal rights.
In Sen??™s economic terms, a ???freedom??? is an ability to participate and be active in a certain field, rather than a legal freedom guaranteeing something. The difference can be seen as active and passive action; Sen??™s freedoms require authorities to be inactive in the main, whereas a legal right, in the terms Freeman (Freeman 2007) and others use requires more active state involvement.Building on this, the Human Development Index (HDI) was developed, which aimed to measure a variety of indicators including life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living and well-being. The absence or low scoring of these composite factors can be argued as analogous with a state of poverty.
However HDI is primarily a measure of adult 1516 well-being. The index is not disaggregated by age group, and the indicators are the expected levels reached by adulthood. This has led to considerations of supplementary child focused measure (Burd-Sharps et al 2012).
Burd-Sharps et al proposed a ???Tots-Index??? with a range of child focussed indicators, particularly focussed on under 5 well being. In the UK, Save the Children developed a corresponding Child Development Index (Save the Children 2008). This index aimed to combine a multitude of indicators relating specifically to children (child health, nutrition, primary education). The authors argued each indicator was easily accessible, universally understood and clearly indicative of childhood wellbeing. This is linked to a ???taxonomy of deprivation??™ approach advocated by some development economists.
But these approaches are difficult to interpret on a scale less then at a regional or country level. So what does that mean in the field of our study How we can do microanalysis of individuals or groupsDetailed and fascinating anthropological surveys can lead to socio-cultural analysis of poverty ??“ for example Howard and Millards work amongst the Chagga in Tanzania (1997). Or Amartya Sen??™s redefining of development economics both still, despite their innovations, leave us in a conceptual space where poverty, whilst being defined in a more nuanced way is both still with us and, as prophesised in the New Testament ???will always be with you (us).??? The implication being that poverty is a conceptual characteristic, or label that is entirely relational, and therefore inescapable.Is this due to some unconscious human need to compete, or by conscious desires to maintain social power relations As these relations are socially or culturally defined, does that lead us to consider poverty as socially or culturally defined also Researchers in India (Montgomerry et al 2003) found that when they questioned rural women what they felt constituted poverty they answered an alcoholic husband. Due to the shame he would bring. Similar research was carried out in the Amazon, where poverty was synonymous with being an orphan, as one was deprived of having many relatives. An aboriginal version of poverty1617 comprised facing dislocation from their spiritual and economic base, the land (Choo 1990: 32).
So, there are clearly cultural connotations for poverty. Yet, each of the given examples does connect to material deprivation in some way; interestingly they are all a step removed from income, but the end result is in some ways similar to an insufficient income in a capitalist system. So, the real key is the relativity of poverty ??“ whether or not the whole picture is poorer or richer, it??™s the effect on those who are poorer ??“ however defined.
???Even in a society with sufficient food, some people are forced into food crisis when they lost their ???food entitlement??™ as customs of reciprocity and redistribution erode.??™ (Howard and Millward: 173)Sen??™s (1999) take is closer to the cultural examples above, suggesting that the social breakdown resulting from social development, the development of free market capitalism and concurrent forces of urbanisation and globalisation can lead to poverty even when the overall picture is one of economic growth and development.???A pattern of loss of entitlements in many regions of Africa??¦ rates of child malnutrition tend to peak in Africa??™s mountainous areas, where cash crop production has been most successful.??™ (Raikes 1988: quoted in Howard and Millward: xiv)So there seems to be a perverse irony of increasing ???wealth??? leading to increased poverty, which in particular seems to hit those we are most concerned about, children. Do global changes lead to an increase in poverty, unless we systematically design our interventions to have the opposite effectThe recent rapid pace of change in the economic, technological and social spheres has demonstrably fragmented the social order. Poverty, as much as material deprivation relates 1718 to social exclusion from the increasingly fragmented social order. Poverty is multidimensional, and measures of poverty, whether the $1 dollar a day or the more comprehensive measures can only be indicators of this. Child poverty is even more difficult to measure or even indicate, due to divergent rates of progress and development, and different needs and capacities.
?????¦it evolves over the course of childhood, depends on the care of others, and is subject to a particular depth of voicelessness??™ (Harper and Jones, 2009).UNICEF has stated, ???children living in poverty experience deprivation of the material, spiritual, and emotional resources needed to survive, develop and thrive, leaving them unable to enjoy their rights, achieve their full potential and participate as full and equal members of society??™ (UNICEF 2005).This brings us back to more straightforward measures which have currency in UK policy debates, which although complex and contested, remain empirical and based on levels of income, rather than capacities or capabilities.
(Bradshaw 2006; Strelitz 2008). Townsend??™s (1979) definition, which remains in use, emphasises that poverty is relative (to time and place) and is more complex than being purely about ???survival??™ (CPAG 2008). Strelitz (2008) suggests that a focus on severe poverty (defined as ???persistent??™ or ???deep??™ poverty) can add a critical dimension to our understanding of poverty.
The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG 2008) lists three indicators against which child poverty is measured based on those identified in the Department for Work and Pensions??™ report measuring child poverty (DWP 2003): ??? Children experiencing relative low income ??“ children in households with ???needs-adjusted incomes below the 60 per cent national median income??™ (which may be measured before and after housing costs) ??? Children experiencing material deprivation and relative low income combined ??? Children experiencing absolute low income. 1819The clear criticism of all of these measures is that they only focus on material wealth and income (Perry 2002, Van den Bosch 2001), which will be measuring the income of the immediate family as well.The current coalition government have stated they take a different view of child poverty:???Poverty is about more than income; it is about a lack of opportunity, aspiration and stability.??™ (Child Poverty Action Paper 2010)They have built a child poverty strategy around the following areas: ??? tackling debt ??? strengthening families ??? tackling worklessness ??? tackling educational failure ??? tackling poor health These are all laudable aims for the government of a developed nation. There are two fundamental issues that warrant further investigation in the context of this dissertation.
Firstly the conceptualisation of poverty is predominantly as a function of limiting future adulthoods, rather than something that is a lived reality. It continues the trend of silencing the child??™s own experience (Morrow and Richards 2007), and of de-individualising the child, seeing them either as a problem to be corrected (an educational failure) or as an adjunct of a family issue (child poverty is symptom of family worklessness). It must be noted that all of the elements of this strategy have positive aspects, but in failing to focus on the ???end users??? of the poverty the strategy is trying to alleviate, but rather on the things they effect, it seems to be missing a trick.The second key question for this strategy is that it focuses on alleviating the effects of poverty at a family level, whilst the CRC can be seen to place it beyond the family level, 1920 requiring states to take responsibility for it. That though, leaves this strategy unfulfilled. For example if we were to create a world where there was no educational failure, no ill health, strong families, and no debt would we have eliminated poverty Not necessarily. So, whilst these concerns are of high importance they seem to not be specific enough to the problem they are trying to address. If it was absolutely as simple as poverty is being an individual or family living on an income below a certain percentage of the mean income, then the solution should be entirely focussed on ensuring no one is asked to exist below that level.
That this doesn??™t happen, and policy solutions are not entirely focussed on making this happen, suggests one of two things: either there is a lack of political will to solve; or there is an understanding that poverty is about more than the straightforward income measurement.So then, how ??“ for the purposes of this dissertation – are we to define poverty Using the evidence from the literature review it is hard to escape the notion that poverty is defined by absence. Absence of resources, materials and capacities. It is also clear that poverty is a relational concept. Poverty is defined by what others have and the person or people in poverty do not. As this dissertation is primarily concerned with qualitative research, the typical quantitative measures of free school meals, percentage of the median income and other indices will be referred to, but not deferred to. In the primary research section we will also consider the participants definitions of poverty. To further understand how we need to understand / interpret poverty ??“ we need to consider how poverty creates a barrier to rights.
How does child poverty create a barrier to the realisation of a child??™s rightsIn many mainstream debates about poverty, the rights agenda is noticeable by its absence. A good example is a recent Nottinghamshire local authority commissioned literature review (Kakouliss 2011). This review aimed to profile the range of recommended interventions to support children afflicted by poverty. It profiled 27 publications and counted which interventions were recommended. Of the 25 possible interventions only ???raising aspirations,??™ 2021 ???improve health and well being??™ and ???improve home working environment??™ were related to children directly and these are only implicitly related to children??™s rights.
The rest, such as those relating to family/parental income were primarily targeting parents, families or communities (Kakouliss 2011). However, it is clear that poverty creates a barrier to the realisation of children??™s rights. It does this directly through the lack of finances, indirectly through lack of access and finally in a conceptual way by ensuring those in poverty as ???other.???The literature which gives voice to children??™s lived experience of poverty in the UK, picks out 5 direct areas of concern which were identified by children (Willets 2006): 1.
Economic deprivation: children signalled anxiety about their parental or family income and were afraid there would not be enough money for them and for their family??™s needs. 2. Material deprivation: children feeling they lack things other children have, like toys, and games, and sometimes more everyday items, like food and clothing; 3. Social deprivation: children??™s chances to make friendships, and their opportunities for shared social activities was felt to be reduced; 4. School deprivation: children experienced less opportunities at school, through an inability to pay for resources, and opportunities through an inability to pay for school trips and other social activities; 5. Visible signs of poverty and difference: a lack of the possessions and clothes of their peers, and an inability to take part in the same social and leisure activities meant that children sometimes experienced bullying and were fearful of stigma (Ridge 2009).All of which are in violation of the children??™s rights as set out by the CRC, in particular article 2 ??“ that there should not be discrimination against some children (for example owing to their parents socio-economic background); and articles 27 and 31 pertaining to the responsibility to provide an ???adequate standard of living; and the right of children to play and participate in cultural and artistic life.
??™ 2122Not necessarily noted by the children themselves, the literature (e.g. Ridge 2009, and Townsend 1979), also points to some facets of childhood poverty that are less prevalent in higher social classes, which we can describe as secondary effects of poverty for children:-Additional responsibilities – including housework and caring responsibilities, older children were also more likely to be in work themselves to gain access to money and to support family income.-Poor quality housing: poorer children are more likely to be living in cramp accommodation with knock on effects on health and wellbeing and also negative effects on sleep patterns and ability to complete homework.-Living in a poorer neighbourhood may create particular problems for children, as these neighbourhoods are less likely to have safe recreation areas and involve a greater degree of stress.Finally, there are a set of hidden effects, which may be less direct and visible then the above primary and secondary effects outlined above.
These hidden effects relate to the powerlessness described in the introduction, and comprise psychological effects ??“ including loss of self-esteem, feelings of powerlessness, anger, depression, anxiety and boredom (identified in Beresford et al., 1999). There is also, as discussed, the creation of ???otherness.??? A recent Barnados (Barnados 2011) report ???Poverty First Hand,??? asked participants to share their experiences of living in poverty. Participants were very clear that although they were clearly living in poverty by any quantitative measure, they did not wish to be labelled as ???poor.??™ Poverty is a stigmatised social position associated with numerous negative outcomes, the associations with which are clearly in the public domain and form a dominant social discourse.It is important to note though that research and engagement with children and families experiencing poverty presents ethical and methodological challenges (Ridge 2009). Those 2223 who experience poverty themselves are often the most marginalised elements in a given society.
They are rarely consulted about the issues that concern them and they are also likely, at times, to be scrutinised and talked about rather than consulted themselves ??“ this risk in particular is one that this dissertation was carefully planned to avoid. These aspects of poverty include a: ???lack of voice ??¦ an assault on dignity and self esteem ??¦stigma; powerlessness, denials of rights and diminished citizenship??™ (Lister, 2004:7).Research with children experiencing poverty presents further challenges (Grieg et al 2007). Children are already socially constructed beings (Prout 2001), and risk being depicted as powerless and without agency (or alternatively as holding all the evils of society). Whilst this dissertation contests that conception, there are restrictions and labels ascribed to children. This risk is that children in poverty can be doubly disempowered, meaning their rights are ever further from being realised. One of the most serious effects that poverty can have on children is paradoxically the loss of the ???otherness??? that makes them children. There is a risk that children in poverty simply lose their childhood.
Goldstein??™s research (1988) in Brazil points to representations of Brazilian children offering a dichotomisation:???Childhood in Brazil is a privilege of the rich and practically non-existent for the poor.??™ (Prout 2005: 13 referring to Goldstein 1998).This though, suggests that there is a particular model of childhood and that it requires a certain amount of material wealth in order to access it. Such thinking effectively condemns the majority of children in the world as having no or limited childhood and unconsciously references an understanding of childhood as a ???secret garden.???Yet over a quarter of the world??™s children are recognised as living in economically defined poverty and in the global south in particular constructions of poverty and constructions of children are intimately tied together. Franklin (2002) has argued that globalisation is creating a divergence between the childhoods of those that have and those that do not have. So 2324 there are some fundamental questions for those concerned with children??™s rights: does globalisation mean that childhoods are more divergent then before, and critically whether the factors associated with globalisation, poverty, and poverty reduction support or undermine children??™s rights Poverty then, is not the only inhibitor to children??™s rights, or limitation on their empowerment.
There are other barriers and restrictions.What are the other barriersIn an important publication Dr Ursula Kilkelly under commission from the children??™s ombudsman of Ireland, detailed what (in Ireland) were the key restrictions and barriers to children??™s rights (Kilkelly 2006). She recognised particular groups of children, including children in poverty (and those homeless, in care, at risk of sexual exploitation) faced multiple and complex barriers, but also in her research detailed what she termed ???general barriers??? applicable to children generally and not those in a particular category of disadvantage.
In doing so she split up the key barriers to children??™s rights into the following areas:1. The invisibility of children in decision-making structures; 2. The absence of children??™s rights from law and policy; 3.
The inadequacy of mechanisms for complaints, monitoring and advocacy; 4. The inadequacy of supports and services; 5. The absence of investment; and 6.
The need for greater information and training.This list is equally applicable to the UK context, but the first two supersede the others. If children were a visible part of decision making, with systems and structures to enable this enshrined in law, policy and practice then the latter four barriers would be overcome. Therefore we will take each of the first two barriers identified, and discuss them in relation to the UK context.2425 Where are they Are children invisible from decision making and the lawIn 2005 the Children??™s Commissioner for England5 was established as part of the Children??™s Act (2004), in response to the CRC. The office of the commissioner undertakes such activities as it deems necessary and appropriate to champion the voices of children and support the implementation of children??™s rights. In April 2012 the Office for the Children??™s commissioner published its participation strategy, specifically focussed on article 12 of the CRC.
Article 12 is often cited as the most challenging, and yet most fundamental of the rights in the CRC (Stahl 2007) Article 12 of the CRC requires every child capable of forming a view the right to express those views freely in all matters concerning him/her and to have those views given due weight in accordance with the child??™s age and maturity. More than any other, Article 12 is a defining principle of children??™s rights; it is both important in its own right and as a provision that enables children??™s exercise of their rights in other areas. According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Article 12 represents a ???new social contract??™, one by which children are ???fully recognised as rights-holders who are not only entitled to receive protection but also have the right to participate in all matters affecting them, a right which can be considered as the symbol for their recognition as rights holders. The strategy aims to promote children??™s participation in all aspects of the commissioner??™s work.
It is a commendable and comprehensive strategy, and includes aspects of promoting the enactment of article 12 in wider society. However, if the organisation whose role it is to champion and challenge on the implementation of children??™s rights is only just publishing a strategy on how it will do so, and how it will promote participation within its own auspices, then there will clearly be a long way to go in wider society.There has been, up to this point a non-prioritisation of listening to the voices of children (and recognition of this, for example the Guardian 24 May 20116), to give due weight to their views and to appreciate the value of their contributions.
For example in developing new5This is the corresponding position to the children??™s ombudsman of Ireland referred to above. There are also corresponding commissioners for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 6 http://bit.ly/lOD8I52526 education policies and strategies, the Department for Education has no strategic method for consulting young people. It also has no senior role dedicated to the implementation of children??™s rights or a need for new policies to consider the impact on children??™s rights. These are two of the key barriers Kilkenny identified in her report; the lack of a child focus, a rights basis and child proofing mechanisms, and the failure to take a child-focused and rightsbased approach to children??™s issues with a lack of appropriate structures to ensure this happens.
Alderson (2011) relates some key reasons children may not be appropriately listened to or consulted: The people listening lack confidence or skills Fear of losing control Prejudice that it is not worth itIt should be noted, there are pockets of good practice. Some schools and local authorities have received recognition for their work in this area. It is also noteworthy that the organisation that holds schools and local authorities to account ??“ Ofsted – has a senior role within their organisation championing children??™s rights.7 They reward and recognise schools and local authorities which do so. However, it is clear that more broadly children??™s rights are not fully implemented, with the key reasons, as suggested by the literature ??“ fear of losing power and control, a lack of skills in engaging with young people (related to participation rights in particular) and prejudice which is strongly prevalent in public discourse and the media (one recent example8: ???children do not always know what is best for them??? Daily Telegraph March 23 2011).So, there is evidence of both institutional and cultural barriers to the full implementation of children??™s rights and rights based approaches. There is a dominant public discourse that children may not know what is good for them and are not ???responsible??? enough to be ???rights???7 8http://bit.
ly/OqPrzR http://bit.ly/hP7gtx2627 holders. Although there are some institutional mechanisms to support children??™s participation and children??™s rights but there is no duty to consult children, and the CRC does not have full legal status in the UK. There is also little in the way of incentives for example by making it a requirement of funding or budget allocation. So, a key question for us is whether a focus on child poverty would affect other barriers, reducing prejudice, and enhancing structural mechanisms to enable children to be seen as rights holders.Would poverty reduction or eradication make children more likely to be successful rights holders; or would children who were enabled to be more successful rights holders make poverty reduction more achievable and successfulThe development of children??™s rights proceeded during the 20th Century culminating in 1989, when the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Although there has been well documented criticism and debate surrounding the CRC (Gadda 2008, Alderson 2000), its potentially Western behavioural norms on such issues as child work, proponents point to how ground-breaking it is, legally and conceptually (Lansdown, 2005). The CRC rights-based framework, which consists of three ???Ps??™ (protection, provision and participation), is seen as moving away from the ???essentialising??™ of childhood (Morrow, 2006).
It does this by highlighting the concept of the evolving capacities of the child (Article 5) and the right to participation (Article 12). Recognising a child??™s right to participate in all decisions affecting their wellbeing may also reflect an altered construction of childhood (Harper et al., 2010b).These divergent views reflect an active debate within the rights camp (Alderson 2000). They also, however, reveal the need for more meaningful collaboration between those advocating for children??™s rights and other key policy stakeholders, such as those working on poverty. Communicating and explaining now reasoned positions, for example on cultural relativity, 2728 issues of universality and the indivisibility of rights, would enable a more nuanced understanding among those focused on poverty but questioning rights-based approaches.The integration of rights paradigms within poverty reduction planning modalities has been limited ??“ at both adult and child levels. The primary approach to poverty reduction remains through the promotion of economic growth, even where growth is seen as a means, rather than an end ??“ it is rarely postulated as a means to rights fulfilment, rather a means to prosperity (ODI, 2009).
This also, as discussed earlier takes a rather narrow view of poverty. Although there are strong arguments that economic growth leads to poverty reduction, which in turn leads to greater rights fulfilment.There is evidence to suggest that ???poverty eradication has been most pronounced in the regions where growth has been the largest??™ (Barro and Sala-i-Martin, 2003: 10), and this fits the dominant ideology. However, when growth is measured in terms of average increase in income per capita, this can mask inequalities.
Despite India??™s rapid growth, for example, the poorest 40% of rural households have not benefited significantly (Svedberg, 2006). Moreover, higher aggregate incomes do not equate directly to better quality of life (e.g., World Bank, 2006).
This is shown by analysis of child mortality: a relatively low infant mortality rate can be achieved with low income, and GDP increases do not necessarily result in improvements (Minjuin et al., 2002). There is no clear pattern between GDP growth and reduction of under-five mortality rates.
(ibid).Literature has begun to articulate how rights fulfilments can support growth and development. Barro (1996) and Sachs (2005) show the importance of education levels, life expectancy, the rule of law as key determinants, as well as indicators of economic growth, and each of these findings has been confirmed by other empirical studies (e.g., World Bank, 2005). There is also accepted evidence – to the extent it has become dogma – that gender inequality, as well as other inequalities holds back growth (World Bank, 2001).2829 An important question becomes how do global changes lead to an increase in poverty, and can we design interventions to have an opposite effect Poverty, as much as material deprivation relates to social exclusion (Hills et al 2002) from the increasingly fragmented social order (Narayan 2000), and as discussed child poverty doubly so.Due to the prominence of poverty reduction within development and policy discourses, proponents of children??™s rights have begun to consider a ???pro-poverty??™ approach.
Working to show that poverty reduction would be supported by a focus on children??™s rights (Pemberten, Gordon, and Nandy 2007).This work has gained prominence in more typically ???development??™ or poverty focussed narratives. An example of this was the recent Overseas Development Institute (ODI) paper: ???Increasing the prominence of child rights in poverty reduction strategies.
??™ (Espey, Pereznieto, Harper, Jones and Waler 2010). Espey et al??™s paper opens articulating the rationale for drawing the two discourses together: ???Why is there such a fragmented approach to addressing their (children??™s) needs and rights How does the poor alignment of child poverty and child rights discourses contribute to this lack of coordination in poverty planning??¦??™An additional unasked question would be: how far does this lack of co-ordination impinge either poverty reduction (for children) or children??™s rightsChild poverty is characterised by the interdependence of its different elements; food and shelter do not guarantee well-being. There must also be systems for care and development, health, survival and protection, as well as capacity for the child to participate. The CRC uses a comprehensive and indivisible approach to attaining child wellbeing and is clearly not a strategy to alleviate poverty, and the language of child rights is distinct from that of poverty reduction discourses, but increasingly arguments are being made that using a rights-based approach has the potential to effectively reduce poverty (e.g. UNDP, 2006 and O??™Neil, 2006). However, it is a contention that a specific focus on child poverty, in the context of a rights based approach would be the most effective way for children??™s rights to be enabled.
2930 As we move into the primary research aspect of this dissertation, it is important to briefly summarise the key themes from the literature. Overall there is a developed and nuanced debate as to what constitutes poverty, although many in policy development at UK and international levels choose to ignore this and focus entirely on income dependant measures. In the UK context there is limited correlation of a narrative pertaining to children??™s empowerment (i.e. through a child-rights approach) and poverty reduction. There are other barriers to children??™s rights aside from poverty, including prejudice and lack of structural measures in place to support participation (Article 12 of the CRC) in particular.
However it is by ensuring the state makes full provisions to tackle child poverty in its widest sense, that would enable children to access the full complement of their rights.3031 Research MethodsTheoretical position that will inform methods ???Poverty is neither natural or inevitable but becomes something done to people for which certain actors bear responsibility??™ (Gready, 2008: 742)Poverty is a structural effect of a particular socio-economic settlement ??“ especially as it applies to children. This is a core proposition for this study. It chimes with the previous Labour government??™s acknowledgement that ending child poverty requires the: ???Changing of society to make it fundamentally fairer.??™ (CPU 2008)However, this does not abdicate the variance of individual and group responses to poverty. Indeed the spectrum of response is a key area of investigation. In seeking to understand how poverty inhibits children??™s rights the dissertation will be collating primary data from children who live amongst poverty. The children all attend Evelyn Grace Academy, an inner city school in Brixton, Lambeth.
Many of the children who will inform the study attract the free school meals subsidy (56% – in line with the school average) which is the current, and very imperfect, way in which schools and the government measure the level of poverty in school communities. Indeed the effect of attracting this label is a point of enquiry during our investigation.In collecting and collating data and information the research will be utilising an approach that recognises the criticality of context and that children are a social group ??“ or more specifically a whole assemblage of groups that will have developed their own norms and culture. As such, there are questions about parallels and comparisons that can be drawn ??“ and where appropriate these questions will be asked in analysing the data.3132 Sociological approachTraditional research methods, such as large scale observation of children, and data collection of relevant information (including standard child poverty related information) have been criticised for carrying out research on rather than with children.
Although more recent research has identified children as a distinct social group (Qvorturp 1994). In light of this, and drawing on the work and guidance of Morrow and Alderson in particular, the dissertation aimed to ensure it was inclusive and participatory. It would have been helpful to take an ethnographic approach to some aspects of the research, but within the constraints of time and resources this was on this occasion not possible. However all discussions, interviews and focus groups involved in were child centred and participatory. The aim was to respect the voices of children, recognising them as social actors in a theatre where they were enabled to express their views. Their views and identity shapes their understanding of the social worlds in which they lived with each word having potential meaning (Vygotsky 1987:236-7).
There are risks involved in this approach, some of which are discussed below, the others are related to the ethical considerations which will be articulated in that section.The primary research aspect of this dissertation has involved interviews and focus groups looking at how children ??“ both who are defined as living in poverty and those who are not understand the relationship between socio-economic background and rights; both for themselves, others in their ???social world??™ and more widely. ?????¦ Qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomenon in terms of the meanings people bring to them.??™ (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000, p.3). We will be utilising the outcomes of this qualitative research to discuss the hypotheses developed during the literature review above. Finally we will be determining conclusions and issues that are produced from the research and analysis.3233 The design of the primary research comprised 3 discrete, but related elements.
The first component was a pair of focus group discussions. The focus groups included visual and case study stimulus as well as discussion. The second stage was a series of one-on-one interviews (and in one case one-on-two) and the final stage was a participant questionnaire, to provide a quantitative input. All the research was carried out with children and young people who attend Evelyn Grace Academy, a secondary school in Brixton, south London.Focus GroupsThe aim of this study was for primary research to be at its heart, to get an insight into the world of the young people involved. Group work or focus group work can be very valuable for drawing out collective experiences and focusing on particular issues, groups can be empowering and also allow space for the recognition of shared experiences (Walker and Gibbs 2006) and can be a safer way into to discussions on sensitive areas ??“ including financial issues which an individual may find difficult to discuss (Collard et al. 2001).Two parallel focus groups were set up, with similar topics for discussion but differently framed, because the groups were at either end of the (secondary school) age range.
One group constituted sixth formers (16-18 years old) and the other year 7 students (11-12 years old).In addition to these focus groups, individual one-on-one interviews were carried out. Interviewing gave time and space to explore an individual??™s experience and ideas in a safe environment, especially when carried out after a group session.This was especially important in relation to the more complex and sensitive areas for discussion, which some of the participants found more difficult to share in the group.
It also gave the researcher more opportunity to probe into underlying feelings and experiences. The danger of stigmatising especially in relation to poverty meant that it was helpful to have a 3334 second stage of interviews, which could act as a safety valve, with the participants or researchers able to suggest that discussion points could be returned to in the individual interviews.The final stage, the instituting of a quantitative questionnaire element to the research was set up to verify (or challenge) findings from the qualitative sections, and to give anyone involved in the study the opportunity to share any thoughts or comments in a confidential manner. It also gave a final ???safety net??? so at any time during the individual interviews or focus groups anyone could suggest that any answers or thoughts that were not certain, or forthcoming, or particularly sensitive at that time, could be included via the questionnaire stage. This stage also enabled the study to have some core data (which is available at annex B) which could be quantified and analysed against the qualitative feedback received. This is not to undermine the value of pure qualitative research, but in this instance it provided an extra viewpoint which was very helpful in considering the final picture and results.One data collection tool that wasn??™t utilised, that would have added invaluable insight into the discussion, is longitudinal research ??“ which was outside scope of this dissertation.
This would have been significant as it would have provided an insight into experiences and views changing over time, and whether and how measures of poverty could be seen to adjust through the teenage years, especially as one finding that came out of the focus groups was the effect of labour market participation at 16 and over. The absence of longitudinal surveys were mitigated by constructing the focus group approach to include groups at either end of the age range, with the possibility that the individual interviews could follow up age specific findings.3435 Study limitationsThere are clear limitations to a study of this kind, and it is important to recognise them. There will be limitations on the data and the study more widely.
As discussed above the definition of poverty is a critical but difficult issue for the researcher ??“ especially one working with school aged children. The main proxy for identifying if a child lives in poverty is a binary indicator. Free school meals are either assigned to a child or not, there is no spectrum or scale. Therefore it is a quite limited measure to support un