Blogpost: Child poverty and education

End Child Poverty

A Blogpost by Aveley and Uplands councillor, Luke Spillman (Thurrock Independent Party)

Child poverty, it’s impact, and why politics must change if we are to abolish it.

BEFORE I start I would like to exercise my right of reply to an article by left-leaning blogger, Peter Perrin, regarding my article published on the 31st March.

The author stated that my call for a national consensus and intervention on poverty, unemployment, underemployment and the low wage economy was ‘sanctimonious claptrap’. There was no criticism of my argument instead I inferred that the conclusion was that I am somehow not allowed to talk about poverty because I don’t wear a rosette with the red rose of the Labour Party.

It is this sort of tribalistic and partisan attitude that is the root cause of many of the failures of post war British social policy. Party politics puts the pursuit of power before the needs of people and has brought us the societal crises so evident in communities up and down the country. I argue that the existence of poverty is not an inevitability, it is the result of a long history of political failures.

I have spent my entire working life supporting people living in poverty. Indeed it is no overestimation to say that I have completed over 15,000 advice appointments across this period. However I also lived and experienced poverty as a child at the height of brutal 1980’s recession when my father walked out leaving my mother alone to bring up two small children. I also experienced a period of extremely poor ill health in the early 2000’s which badly disrupted my education and left me unable to work for two years.

I understand the sense of utter despair and hopelessness that poverty brings, not only because I have lived it, but because I have seen it first hand, thousands of times, throughout my professional career. I therefore hope you forgive me for dismissing the accusations of ‘sanctimony’ from those who aren’t happy that I’m not a Labour Party member.

Let’s look at just one area of impact of child poverty. How living in poverty can influence a child’s education. A study from the Child Poverty Action Group found the following:

Children from poorer backgrounds lag at all stages of education.

By the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be, on average, nine months behind children from more wealthy backgrounds.

According to Department for Education statistics, by the end of primary school, pupils receiving free school meals are estimated to be almost three terms behind their more affluent peers.

By 14, this gap grows to over five terms.

By 16, children receiving free school meals achieve 1.7 grades lower at GCSE.

These findings alone show us how important it is for all politicians from all parties to come together to form a consensus on this issue. It’s why poverty shouldn’t be used by the left as a political football and why the right must fully embrace eradicating it.

However there are many other negative outcomes more likely as a result of child poverty such as physical and mental ill health, poor employment outcomes, entering the criminal justice /care system, or substance abuse in later life.

It must now be time for all to put aside politics and party allegiance and work in a concerted and unified way toward the most worthy of grand projects. The abolishment of child poverty once and for all.

This can only be achieved through the formation of a new social contract between government and its citizens. A contract which enshrines the right of every citizen to gainful and sustaining employment but also the responsibility of every citizen, fit to do so, to embrace that right.

I will return to consider options for how this may be achieved, not just at a national level but also the action we in Thurrock can take, in a final article on this matter. However it can and will only be achieved if we change the very nature of how we do politics in this country and indeed in this borough.

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