Blog: Child poverty research day

Artwork: Jorge Martin. Picture: Global Coalition to End Child Poverty and IDS. © All Rights Reserved.

 

Dec 2016

On 18 November, the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty and the Impact Initiative hosted a ‘Child Poverty Research Day’ to discuss current evidence, knowledge gaps and ways forward for research helping to reduce child poverty. Despite massive poverty reduction in the past decades, 385 million children are estimated to live in extreme poverty worldwide and child poverty remains an issue requiring urgent action. The Global Coalition to End Child Poverty brings together more than twenty organisations in working towards a world without children suffering from poverty and exclusion.

The day was filled with sharing of research findings as well discussions of knowledge gaps and ideas for ways forward on how research, policy and practice can come together towards seeking a solution for ending child poverty.

Some take-away messages:

  • Cash can do a lot to reduce child poverty but a wider response is needed, and more information is needed about what that wider response should be. While the positive impacts of cash transfers have now been widely documented (as presented by Lucia Ferrone from UNICEF’s Office of Research), discussions regarding social protection programmes for improving children’s lives are moving to ‘cash plus’ programmes. Such programmes aim to complement cash transfers with additional components, including the provision of information on nutrition and health care and the establishment of linkages to services such as education and health care. Much more knowledge is needed about which ‘plus’ components are most effective and how they can be implemented. Anja Sautmann’s presentation on utilisation of healthcare in Mali, for example, showed that the role of health workers in providing information about symptoms that require acute health care may not necessarily lead to improved healthseeking behaviour. 

  • Children are part of families, communities and social networks, and a solution to child poverty needs to recognise and engage with the relational aspect of poverty. Nicola Ansell from Brunel University highlighted the power dynamics of such relationships, and how being able to negotiate power at the family and community level is vital for young people to benefit from cash transfers. In relation to the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), Yisak Tafere from Addis Ababa University highlighted that child poverty is not the same as household poverty, and that we need to pay more attention to intra-household distribution of resources. In high-income country contexts, policy also needs to come to terms with a permanent reshape of family structures with growing numbers of children being part of multiple households.

  • Disaggregated and inclusive data is crucial for identifying who and where poor and vulnerable children are. Paul Lynch and Anita Soni emphasised the need for more, and better, information about children living with disabilities – both in terms of who and where they are but also with respect to the types of disabilities. ‘Making the invisible visible’ also refers to ensuring that children living outside of household contexts are included in survey data, as argued for in the all children count, but not all are counted initiative.

  • We need to do more to understand transitions from childhood into adulthood, and how to turn the threat of a ‘youth bulge’ into an opportunity of the ‘demographic dividend’. While young people can be supported in shaping their own transitions, discussions highlighted the need for more structural solutions. Gina Porter from Durham University indicated how mobile phones have transformed the ways in which young people across Africa hunt for jobs, but also that the power of technology in supporting employment is limited when there are too few jobs. Jim Sumberg and colleagues at IDS challenge the highly individualised model of stimulating youth employment and the need of policies to engage more critically with how youth imagine their own futures. Frances Stewart from Young Lives highlighted that key adolescent transitions such as leaving school, marrying and staring one’s own family, starting work and migration cause ‘cliff-edge’ differences between adolescents, potentially magnifying differences that occurred in childhood.

  • In moving from research to action, we need to engage with the usual and unusual suspects and engage in usual and unusual ways. The opening speech by Sir Richard Jolly and contributions during the closing panel session highlighted the need for taking greater account of politics, for making sure that adults and organisations are no long ‘child-blind’, for learning from success and positive examples, for using clear language and for ensuring that listening to children’s voices becomes the norm rather than exception. This requires high-level engagement at the level of the United Nations and with national governments, but also calls for action in our own homes, schools and communities.

 

We asked members of the Global Coalition and ESRC/DFID grant holders what they felt that research needs to do for reducing child poverty, and this is what they said.

For more reflections on child poverty research and on the Child Poverty Research Day, check out the other blog posts and have a look at the photos of the event.

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The Impact Initiative blog posts are either from individual researchers or from major research programmes. Some of the blog posts are original source and are written by researchers and experts connected to the two research programmes jointly funded by ESRC and DFID: the Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research and the Raising Learning Outcomes in Education Systems Research Programme. Other blog posts are imported from related websites and programmes. 

The views expressed in these blogs reflect the opinions of each individual and may not represent the Institute of Development Studies, the University of Cambridge, ESRC or DFID.

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