I’ve always found it very frustrating that we talk about reducing ‘child poverty’, clearly a very emotive term. How on earth can children be poor, in the conventional sense of the word? They aren’t poor, they’re simply living with the dire consequences of their family’s situation.
And what does ‘poor’ mean anyway? What is poverty? Does it mean you don’t have enough money to do what you need to stay alive and function as well as your peers, or does it mean you don’t have the other essential ingredients that contribute to a happy, safe, and healthy life?
Our work at Family Gateway focuses on those families living in some of the most deprived communities whose children have ‘reduced life chances’.
For us it’s simple:
Every child deserves to be loved and cared for. That means that we need to help parents/carers learn how to show that love and do so consistently. Sometimes that means helping the parents learn how to love themselves first, and that’s often a long and complex piece of work.
Every child deserves to be safe. That means that they are not at risk of harm from individuals or from their environment. Sometimes it can be helping the parents/carers learn the skills to care for their children, keeping a heathy and safe home, and protecting them from others.
Every child deserves to be healthy. Free from mental or physical ill-health. Sometimes this means helping parents/carers to spot signs of illness and act on them, ensure they are fed properly and that they are not subject to undue mental anxiety at a young age. This often requires the parents/carers to recognise and deal with their own health too, and learn essential skills.
Every child deserves to have an education. This means that they attend school regularly and that they perform to the best of their abilities. We have a fantastic education system in the UK and it is being slowly destroyed through inadequate funding. But no matter how fantastic the schools are, if parents will not or cannot encourage their children to attend and learn then those children won’t benefit from it, so we need to work with families to understand the issues that are preventing them from taking their children to school or engaging with their learning.
So the point I’m making is that unless we work with parents and carers, we will never ever reduce this thing called ‘child poverty’, and we will never create a better environment for them to grow up in and thrive.
Unless we accept the many facets of disadvantage that ‘poor’ children experience, we will never be able to understand how to help their parents and carers change their own lives and behaviours to build stability into the home environment.