Kids in the UK: Poverty and Happiness

13 January 2012 — 1 Comment

This week there’s been a couple of key reports released relating to the quality of life for children and young people in the UK.

Firstly the Campaign to End Child Poverty published new figures (estimates for mid 2011) that provide a child poverty map of the whole of the UK.

On average, one in five (20.9%) children are classified as below the poverty line (before housing costs). It’s 18% in my locality. In some areas of large cities, this rises to over half. At a more local level, there are even more serious concentrations of child poverty: in 100 local wards, between 50% and 70% of children face poverty.

Official government measures of child poverty are based on a national survey of family income which only shows poverty at national and regional level. The figures shown in this report use tax credit data to give the percentage of children on low incomes in local authorities, parliamentary constituencies and wards. Therefore although it is not the official measure, it is the closest data available on local levels of child poverty and very useful information to help us do better at eradicating poverty. As Alison Garnham, Executive Director of the Campaign, says:

“The child poverty map paints a stark picture of a socially segregated Britain where the life chances of millions of children are damaged by poverty and inequality. But it also gives us reason for hope. The child poverty target has already been met in the Prime Minister’s constituency and nearly a hundred others, so never let it be said that the targets are impossible to meet. If we can do it in Witney today, we can do it in Hackney tomorrow.

Then yesterday, The Children’s Society published the The Good Childhood Report 2012. After interviewing 30,000 children aged 8 to 16, the report reveals that half a million children across the UK are unhappy with their lives. This is important information as the report states:

Children who have low levels of happiness are much less likely to enjoy being at home with their family, feel safe when with their friends, like the way they look and feel positive about their future. Children unhappy in this way are also more likely to be victimised, have eating disorders or be depressed.

Key findings include:

  • Choice and family have the biggest impact on children’s happiness.
  • The quality of children’s relationships with their families is far more important than the structure of the family that they live in.
  • Low well-being increases dramatically with age – doubling from the age of 10 (7%) to the age of 15 (14%).
  • Children as young as eight are aware of the financial issues their families face.  Children in families who have experienced a reduction in income are more likely to have low well-being.
  • Children who do not have clothes to ‘fit in’ with peers are more than three times as likely to be unhappy with their appearance. Children who are unhappy with their appearance are also much more likely than average to experience frequent bullying.

You can download the full report or the research summary to find our more, but these findings indicate that poverty (or a reduction in wealth) have a big impact on how happy a child feels.

Both these reports highlight some serious challenges for children and young people in the UK, and some big reminders of how those working with them must continue to provide support in this difficult time.


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I am a qualified youth worker, writer and consultant based in Littlehampton, UK. I've worked in the voluntary youth sector for over 12 years, am married to Kirsty and we have two daughters named Hope and Eloise. Check out 'Journeying Together: Growing Youth Work and Youth Workers in Local Communities' and read my opening chapter.

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  1. Jon Jolly (@bobweasel) (@bobweasel) - 13 January 2012

    Kids in the UK: Poverty and Happiness

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