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BLOG: How to support children and families experiencing poverty

Last week I attended the Education Policy Institute’s annual conference where many professionals came together from across the sector to gain a better understanding of child poverty and disadvantage. This is something which PACEY discussed in ‘The True Cost’, an article which featured in our Spring/Autumn Childcare Professional. Both of which have built on my knowledge and alerted me to the seriousness of the poverty situation for children and families in the United Kingdom and more importantly what practitioners can actually do to support the children they look after who are experiencing it.

To give some context, child poverty is on the rise, with numerous studies showing that more and more children are living below the poverty line and that the situation is predicted to get worse. Matthew Oakley, from the Social Metrics Commission spoke about a new poverty measure they have developed which focuses on understanding more about the nature of poverty by looking at the persistence, depth and lived experience of those within it.  Their figures show that 4.5 million of all children are living in poverty with 37% of this figure being under 4.

Low pay, insecure work, benefit cuts and the rising cost of living are just some of the reasons why poverty is rising. Tom Waters from the Institute of Fiscal studies described how the Government’s implementation of Universal Credit has played a part in this as people must wait to be reimbursed for childcare costs as well as waiting five weeks before receiving any payment at all.

At the conference, Simon Cox, Director of the Blackpool Research School and Cassie Buchanan, the Head teacher of Charles Dickens Primary School in Southwark provided perspectives of practical ways practitioners can help support these children and families. I have combined this with conversations from ‘The True Cost’ with Helen Barnard, Deputy Director of Policy and Partnerships at the Joseph Roundtree Foundation and PACEY’s own Together for Twos Project Manager, Theresa Johnson to create some ‘top tips’ to support your setting.

When it comes to supporting parents in the home learning environment, as part of our Together for Twos campaign PACEY has developed a number of short videos with lots of top tips to share. We have also worked in collaboration with MindEd to offer free e-learning sessions which are designed specifically to help you develop your understanding of child mental health. This includes tips and advice on how to support well-being in the early years which are extremely useful skills to have when supporting children experiencing poverty. Furthermore, teaching all children, not just those in disadvantage, about the reality for many families is also important to consider. Prize-winning author Kate Milner has written a children’s picture book covering the subject of food banks named ‘It’s a No-Money Day’. This novel is beautifully written, with lots of visuals which consider a little girl’s perspective of her and her mum’s visit to a foodbank.When it comes to specific organisations which can support parents in need, many of these are community based so please check your local area but some nationwide organisations include:

The Trussell Trust a network of foodbanks who are currently campaigning to end the five week wait for Universal Credit.

Home Start are a community network who aim to support families with young children through challenging times, this can include financial advice.

Family Action are a charity who offer a range of different services to support families. They can offer grants for families who are experiencing poverty and hardship.

Gingerbread are a charity who aim to support single parents in a whole variety of ways, from benefits advice to support for employment as well as managing money and debt.

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