Blogging for and about Youth Work and Young People


I’m hoping that I’m joining many other blogs today to talk about Poverty. In the guidance for joining Blog Action Day it suggests that bloggers keep their posts related to the subject they usually blog about. So I guess that means I’ll be looking at young people and poverty. 

I’ve been wondering what to write about and how to do this so intially I thought that I would start by goggling “youth poverty”. This threw up a number of interesting facts that I wasn’t aware of. In October 2007 the Joseph Rowntree Foundation did some research into youth poverty in Europe. A few of comments that struck me were:-

“Young Europeans in their late teens and early twenties are at a higher risk of poverty than all other groups except for children and older people. The risk of poverty declines significantly in the late twenties.”

“Having children is associated with a greater risk of poverty, especially in the year after birth. This ‘poverty penalty’ is highest in the UK, but in Scandinavian countries having children carries no extra risk of poverty due to their ‘child-friendly’ policies.”

“There are large variations between countries. Poverty rates among 20- to 24-year-olds range from eight per cent in Austria to 30 per cent in Finland (compared with eleven per cent for the whole population). The UK rate of 20 per cent is towards the upper end of the scale.”

I know that this info is a year old but I’m guessing that it hasn’t changed that much in that time span, and the UK doesn’t come out of it too good does it?!? Also in browsing I found out that The National Youth Agency is a supporter of the End Child Poverty Campaign and also carries information on ending Child Poverty on it’s website.

Click here to be taken to the End Child Poverty website.>

So what are the Key Facts

  • 3.9 million children are living in poverty in the UK (after housing costs)
  • The proportion of children living in poverty grew from 1 in 10 in 1979 to 1 in 3 in 1998. Today, 30 per cent of children in Britain are living in poverty.
  • Since 1999, when the current Government pledged to end child poverty, 600,000 children have been lifted out of poverty.
  • The UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world
  • The majority (54 per cent) of poor children live in a household where at least one adult works.
  • 43 per cent of poor children live in a household headed by a lone parent. The majority of poor children (57 per cent) live in a household headed by a couple.
  • 42% of children in poverty are from families with 3 or more children

For me in practice what I often see is not only the physical poverty that children and young people are living in but stemming from it is (unsurprisingly) a lack of aspiration, a feeling of hopelessness and detachment that pervades their whole lives. So what can we do about it?!?!  There’s campaigning as already stated. For me, in my area of work what I’m trying to focus on, as well as dealing with the day to day reality of some young people’s lives, is raising aspirations and looking at programmes and projects that may inspire and support them to see that there is potentially a way out of their current experiences. Following today I will also reflect on what more I can do across the service

Comments on: "Blog Action Day 08 – Poverty!" (5)

  1. good luck with that work.

    for my part, i turn to sites like freerice (rice donation), kiva (microfinance), and goodsearch (donation per search), as ways to help alleviate poverty online. i also put up their banners on my blog. 🙂

    saw this post via the front page of blog action day. it’s great that you’re participating. 🙂

  2. Thanks a lot for your post. The final passage absolutely resonates with my thoughts on the problem. However, we need to bear in mind, – and I don’t know how you tackle this if you do – young people live in the families, and it is very often the family that doesn’t support or generate any aspirations. Perhaps, the first real step to overcoming poverty is to believe wholeheartedly that it can be overcome, but I think the different belief is planted very deeply in the society.

  3. this article is good about how poverty in the UK is calculated:

    For the past 18 months I’ve been in that ‘poverty’ category – we’ve relied on my very low wage while my wife has been a full time student. We’re far from impoverished though – it reminds me of an interview Radio 1 did last year with a woman who was in poverty “Am I?” was her response!

    I don’t mean there aren’t people struggling in the UK – of course there are, but I have to say that when I first started running courses with young people from the most deprived areas of the UK in 2000 the young people that attended then often did seem visibly ‘poor’ – I remember on one of the first courses taking some clothing from a brother & sister to have it washed overnight (was a residential) because they didn’t get to have their clothes washed very often, (although I have to confess the housekeeping staff used to insist I take mine in too so they could iron it!). But in the later years of that programme the visible signs of poverty weren’t there – that may just be coincidental but we were still targeting the same groups and it was a clear observation over a 6 year period.

    And back to my first point there are a lot of people within the definition of ‘poverty’ that really aren’t – things may not be so easy for them but I think the definition of poverty in the UK has been dumbed down a fair bit. Thats not to say it isn’t still a good policy to assist them – of course I think it is, but I think less emotive and more relevant terminology would be useful.

    Out of interest does anyone know if the comparison between nations are all based on the same indicators of poverty?

  4. Hi Mike

    Thanks for this comment. I tend to agree with your comments, which was why I think I ended up focussing on the poverty of aspiration which for me is a real driver in some of the areas I ‘m working.

    After having been to Ghana, Borneo and other parts of the developing world where I’ve talked to subsistence farmers and seen their dependence for food relying totally on their ability to farm their crops, seen people struggle to get an education (and being so keen to do so that they will walk miles to get to school) and having no health care I decided that often ones personal view of poverty was relative. This is why I’m also passionate about working with young people to enable them to understand and see how other people live as I beleive it then helps them to put their own lives and thoughts in perspective.

  5. Hi Hilary – I agree. The difference in attitude between those in absolute poverty overseas and those in relative poverty here in the UK is really interesting and I agree theres often a poverty of aspiration. Years ago when I really was very poor (part time youth worker!) I had a discussion with a boss who pointed out to me that despite my background and my current circumstances I wasn’t really ‘working class’ because I had an education – and so I didn’t have that poverty of aspiration because I knew I had options. I wonder if this changes as the value of a degree go down though?

    I share your interest in opening eyes as to the plight of others – I have to say that I don’t really feel I’ve achieved this as well as I’d have liked so far. On our trips to Tanzania and Malawi the initial impact on young people has been interesting, but unfortunately I don’t think its had a lasting impact for the majority. The problem is their situations are so far removed its difficult for people to truly empathise and so inevitable they focus on how terrible the situation is for ‘them’ rather than ‘how fortunate am I’ – and this despite many discussions.

    Maybe part of the issue in the UK is that its possible to get by pretty well in ‘poverty’ and also there are so many opportunities and possibilities on offer now – compare this to those families you mention who know they may never be an opportunity for their children to attend college and so if theres even the slightest chance they’ll do all they can to get it. Now theres a good debate – do we need less opportunities for young people in the UK?! (a sure fire policy winner that one!)

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