Poverty and child health: Views from the frontline

Poverty is ‘making children sick’, say children’s doctors | 

A new report from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) and Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) claims that poverty and low income is seriously affecting the health of UK children.

This report is based on a survey of more than 250 paediatricians and provides an insight into the reality of life for UK children living in poverty. The report looks at a number of areas including food insecurity; poor housing; and worry, stress and stigma and their effect on the health of children.

It reveals that:

  • more than two-thirds of paediatricians surveyed said poverty and low income contribute ‘very much’ to the ill health of children they work with
  • housing problems or homelessness were a concern for two thirds of respondents.
  • more than 60% said food insecurity contributed to the ill health amongst children they treat 3
  • 40% had difficulty discharging a child in the last 6 months because of concerns about housing or food insecurity
  • more than 50% of respondents said that financial stress and worry contribute ‘very much’ to the ill health of children they work with

The full report can be downloaded here


Tackling poverty through housing and planning policy in city regions

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published ‘Tackling poverty through housing and planning policy in city regions’.

This research draws on stakeholders in city regions to identify good practice and what more could be done through housing and planning policy to reduce or mitigate poverty. It finds that:

  • Combined authorities are well placed to lead on poverty reduction, given their central role in the devolution process, growing focus on poverty and inequality, constituent authorities’ housing and planning expertise, and the ability to co-ordinate across multiple policy areas.
  • Further action could be taken in two key areas: linking housing development to poverty reduction, and improving conditions in the private rented sector.

Read the report here

Budget needs to be serious about a society for everyone

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published ‘ Budget needs to be serious about a society for everyone’.

Two Budgets this year give the Government two opportunities to put in place the building blocks for a country that works for everybody.  The Brexit vote highlighted the urgency of this and the Prime Minister responded with a welcome commitment to make it her domestic priority. But if the commitment is to ring true with people on low incomes, two significant threats to their living standards must be addressed.

First, some households face declining living standards even when working full time. Second, poverty is projected to increase and to hit families particularly hard – with child poverty likely to rise by over a million by 2021/22. The Budget this week is a chance for the Chancellor to prevent families falling over a precipice.

Read more here

Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2016–17 to 2021–22

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published ‘Living standards, poverty and inequality in the UK: 2016–17 to 2021–22’.

Official economic forecasts predict slow earnings growth and rising inflation over the coming years. Combined with planned tax and benefit changes, this is projected to lead to modest growth in average (median) income but no growth in income for low-income households, and rises in child poverty.

This study projects how the incomes of different households would evolve for each year up to 2021–22 if the current tax and benefit policy plans are kept to, and if the macroeconomic forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) were correct. In the context of macroeconomic uncertainty, it also considers the sensitivity of the outlook to the forecast for earnings.

Read more here

Just about managing: Four million more people living on inadequate incomes in modern Britain

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published ‘Just about managing: Four million more people living on inadequate incomes in modern Britain’.

This report sheds light on how different kinds of household are faring, against the Minimum Income Standard (MIS). MIS is a benchmark of income adequacy, as defined by what the public think is needed for a decent living standard. It is calculated by the Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) at Loughborough University.

The report warns that millions of just managing families are on the tipping point of falling into poverty as prices rise in the shops, with forecasts showing the cost of living could be 10 per cent higher by 2020.

Between 2008/9 – 2014/5, based on the latest available data from official statistics:

The number of individuals below MIS rose by four million, from 15 million to 19 million (from 25 to 30 per cent of the population).

There are 11 million people living far short of MIS, up from 9.1 million, who have incomes below 75% of the standard and are at high risk of being in poverty.

The remaining eight million fall short of the minimum, by a smaller amount, and despite having a more modest risk of poverty, are just about managing at best.

Read the report here

In response to this report, the head of analysis at the independent Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), Helen Barnard, said:

“Record employment in the economy is welcome and work has to be the best route out of poverty. But we know employment alone will not always help people reach a decent standard of living.

“Our analysis shows four million more people over the last six years have fallen below a decent leaving standard, meaning they are struggling to make ends meet.

“Tackling the high cost of living is crucial to helping just managing families, particularly with a challenging outlook: inflation is likely to average 2.6% this year, in sharp contrast to the very low inflation of recent times.

“Government focus on modest incomes is welcome, but there is a fine margin between just managing today and poverty tomorrow.”

Read the comments here

How poverty affects people’s decision-making processes

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published a report ‘ How poverty affects people’s decision-making processes’.

This report summarises the most recent evidence on the relationship between socioeconomic status and the psychological, social and cultural processes that underpin decision-making, it highlights:

  • the results of 15 systematic reviews of recent evidence on the relationship between socioeconomic status and psychological, social and cultural processes underpinning decision-making;
  • insights on the impact of poverty on thinking, behaviour patterns, facing challenges and engaging with the social world;
  • a discussion of what these relationships mean for decision-making by those living in or near poverty;
  • how decision-making in contexts of poverty serves important immediate functions, even if it has negative consequences for long-term outcomes; and
  • implications for interventions designed to empower those living in poverty to make decisions that enhance their long-term well-being.

Read More here

UK child health near bottom in Europe

An alarming gap between rich and poor is jeopardising UK children’s health. | Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) | OnMedica 

A report by  report by the RCPCH has revealed that despite some improvements in the health of UK children over past decades, the UK has one of the highest rates of child mortality in western Europe. The BMA said the UK is failing many of its children, who should not be paying with their health for the economic downturn.

The RCPCH reported in The State of Child Health that almost one in five children in the UK is living in poverty, and that inequality is blighting their lives – deprivation is strongly associated with higher levels of child mortality, child obesity and smoking during pregnancy, and with lower rates of breastfeeding. The College report showed that:

  • The UK ranks 15 out of 19 western European countries on infant mortality; infant mortality is more than twice as high in the lowest socio-economic groups as in the highest.
  • The prevalence of smoking during pregnancy in the UK is much higher than in many European countries and strongly associated with deprivation. In Scotland, 25.9% of women in the most deprived areas acknowledged smoking following the birth of their baby, against 3.3% in the least deprived areas. Child smoking is also much more prevalent among children from the most deprived areas.
  • Breastfeeding rates in England and Scotland have barely improved since records began in 1975, and not at all in the past five years; they are lower than in many other comparable high-income countries. Across the UK, 46% of mothers in the most deprived areas breastfed compared with 65% in the most affluent areas.
  • Across England, Scotland and Wales more than one in five children in the first year of primary school are overweight or obese. In 2015-16, 40% of children in England’s most deprived areas were overweight or obese, compared with 27% in the most affluent areas.