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Risk and poverty

The links between inequality, poverty and poor outcomes for children and young people are well established.

There is a wealth of research and statistics which serve to underline the relationship between structural inequality and poverty. Less access to resources equates to less opportunities to achieve which in turn equates to greater exposure to risk and vulnerability.

In his talk in the previous step Multiple Deprivation and Risk Management, Gordon Main highlighted how children and young people are more likely to be involved in child protection procedures in families which are dependent upon state benefits. He also commented upon how children and young people are more likely to end up in the care of the state when they live in areas of deprivation.

Poverty also holds particular risks for children and young people in terms of education and health.

There is widespread agreement that poverty and poor educational outcomes are related. That is not to say that all children and young people living in poverty are guaranteed to suffer poor educational outcomes, but statistically it is far more likely. Research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Closing the Attainment Gap in Scottish Education, highlighted the links between educational attainment and high and low-income families. Key points from the research included:

  • Lower attainment in literacy and numeracy is linked to deprivation throughout primary school. By age 12–14, pupils from better-off areas are more than twice as likely as those from the most deprived areas to do well in numeracy.
  • Parental socio-economic background has more influence than the school attended.
  • Children from deprived households leave school earlier. Low attainment is strongly linked to destinations after school, with long-term effects on job prospects.

Similarly, poor health outcomes for children are linked to issues of poverty and structural inequality. Figures published in December 2014 by the Health and Social Care Information Centre highlighted that children from poorer areas are twice as likely as those from wealthier ones to be obese by the time they reach 11. Figures show that about 80% of obese 11-year-olds become obese adults, with all the consequent problematic health problems. These figures prompted Dr Colin Michie of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to comment: ‘What is startling is the gulf between the health outcomes for rich and poor’.

The resources in the ‘See Also’ section were used when creating this week’s materials - you can consult them for more information on the topic.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde