Rural poverty is an issue I have always been passionate about growing up in Shropshire and seeing hardship first-hand.
But since starting my dissertation on ‘To assess how rural poverty in the UK impacts children and young people?’ I have been stunned by the size of the problem right across the UK and by the shortage of current research particularly in England on the topic.
Experiencing rural poverty in childhood has life-lasting impacts into adulthood. My focus has been on health, education, transport and jobs. There is a strong relationship between all these factors that can led to cyclic poverty e.g. Poor health due to damp housing=more sick days of schools=poor academic attainment=low paid job=reliant on public transport to get to work can’t afford car.
There is a shortage of policies tackling the issue that has allowed it to remain so prevalent in the countryside both from charities and government. This is in part due to the fact it of the basic economic principle of ‘supply and demand’ there is simply not enough demand for services within a 10mile radius to offer a service due to the sparse population in rural areas.
To give you a snapshot of the impact onto children’s everyday lives:
- 1 in 4 households are in fuel poverty, this leads to a 1 in 4 chance of adolescents developing multiple mental health problems compare to 1 in 20 in warm home.
- 3.5 million children are living in poverty in the UK.
- Up to 25% of households in rural areas have been identified as living in poverty.
- Pupils eligible for school meals achieve less than their counterparts only 27.8% in KS4 attained Level 2 maths.
- Almost 12 million people are too poor to engage in common social activities considered necessary by much of the population.
- Around 2.5 million children live in homes that are damp.
But what has horrified me the most in my primary research has been the awareness of children to their situation and that this put them at a disadvantage for life to their counterparts. Resulting in some feeling like there is nothing to live for as their fate has already been decided. All children should feel able to dream and hopeful for their future. This is not what I have witnessed. I have seen the true vulnerability and fragility of things so many of us accept as a given.
Action is desperately overdue to enable our young people to be encouraged, supported and empowered to escape the poverty trap that exists. Through the bringing together of individuals, communities, charities and government.
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