Old-fashioned kinds of poverty affecting child health

Share

It’s nearly a year since the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health first joined forces with Child Poverty Action Group to explore the links between poverty and children’s health. We know that four million children in the UK live in poverty, and we know that there is a demonstrable link between social disadvantage and poor health outcomes, but we wanted to look beyond the data and discover what our members – paediatricians – were seeing on the frontline.  

Our survey garnered over 250 responses from paediatricians up and down the country. The results are sobering. Questioned on a number of indicators including food insecurity, poor housing, homelessness and financial stress, an overwhelming majority of respondents said that they felt poverty and low income contribute significantly to ill health in the children they treat.

Housing problems and homelessness were a concern for two-thirds of members surveyed – as one respondent starkly put it, “overcrowded, damp or unsuitable housing amongst our patients is the rule rather than an exception’. From mould and damp to vermin infestations, babies sharing cots due to lack of space, and disabled children unable to be discharged because of inaccessible accommodation, our paediatricians are seeing the alarming results of the housing crisis first-hand.

Where children are already unwell, poverty makes the situation worse. Colleagues share anecdotes of children missing appointments due to financial issues – parents not being able to afford petrol, public transport costs or even phone credit to call and reschedule. The stress and worry this causes cannot be overestimated, with the day-to-day difficulties and stigma of poverty placing families under huge emotional strain. Children themselves are by no means immune to stress of poverty – more than half of survey respondents agree that financial stress and worry contribute “very much” to the ill health of children they work with, with one paediatrician noting that “the biggest impact of poverty on the children and parents I encounter is insecurity, inferiority and stress.”

It is shameful that our paediatricians are witnessing these things in the 21st century, and what’s worse is that half of our respondents believe the situation is deteriorating even further. We are in the midst of election season – an opportune time for all our political parties to develop new policies and make commitments to tackle the unacceptable levels of child poverty in this country. The next Government, whoever they may be, must take action through the restoration of child poverty targets, the adoption of a “child health in all policies” approach to decision-making, and a reversal of cuts to public health services and universal credit. These policies should be underpinned by a wider strategy for reducing child poverty and promoting health. Only through concerted and urgent action on social inequalities can a healthy future be secured for infants, children and young people across the UK.


Related Publication

OUT NOW - NEW Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook 2017/18Welfare Benefits & Tax Credits Handbook 2017-2018

Known as the 'adviser's bible' CPAG’s Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook is the essential and best-selling guide to all benefits and tax credits.

Our definitive guide to all benefits and tax credits is an essential resource for all professional advisers serious about giving the best and most accurate advice to their clients. 

With detailed information on all the recent changes to the social security system, including the latest on the roll-out of universal credit, the right to reside test and the sanctions regime, the Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook provides comprehensive advice about entitlement in 2017/18.

Order your copy online

Upcoming events for 2017

Two Child Limit – Implementation, Challenges and the Policy Context Two Child Limit – Implementation, Challenges and the Policy Context

London Thursday 22 June 2017 

This seminar will examine the two child limit in tax credits and means-tested benefits and its inevitable impact on child poverty.

Click here to book your place and for more information


Welfare Rights Conference 2017Welfare Rights Conference 2017

Universal Credit – Understanding and Managing the Risks for Families 

Manchester Thursday 7 September 2017
London Thursday 14 September 2017

This year's conference focuses on the very real risks facing families as the roll out of Universal Credit continues.

Click here to book your place and for more information


Some of our Training courses

Overpayment of benefit
Friday 23 June 2017, 10:00-16:30, London
£138 voluntary organisations, £195 statutory/other organisations, CPD hours: 5
More information - Book now

Personal independence payment
Monday 26 June 2017, 10:00-16:30, London
£138 voluntary organisations, £195 statutory/other organisations, CPD hours: 5
More information - Book now

Universal Credit: conditionality and sanctions (NEW)
Wednesday 28 June 2017, 10:00-16:30, London
£138 voluntary organisations, £195 statutory/other organisations, CPD hours: 5
More information - Book now

View all our Training courses