Blog: How disability contributes to increased child poverty

Picture: UNAMID/Flickr licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Dec 2016

Contributed by: Paul Lynch and Anita Soni, School of Education, University of Birmingham.

We were delighted to participate in the Impact Initiative Research Scoping Day on Child Poverty which was hosted at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) on Friday 18 November 2016.

This is the first occasion we have participated in a discussion on reducing global child poverty and we found the presentations also spoke to disability and how young children with disabilities and their families are more likely to experience economic and social disadvantage than those without disability. Disability can contribute to increased poverty for a number of reasons including: loss of household income as carers take time away from income-generating activities; siblings are taken out of school to care for a brother or sister with a disability as well as families incurring extra health and transport costs. We felt that this crucial group of children and their families were not considered enough in the presentations. Having said that, we felt that the overall discussion sessions helped to redress this gap.

We found the debate around direct cash transfers, how much of this is spent by families on (hidden) costs for say school, highlights the need for schools (and early childhood development) to be adequately funded and not to have hidden costs (e.g. school uniforms), and maybe needs to be financially incentivised to work hard with children in poverty (as in the pupil premium here) and/or those with disabilities.

On a different note, we thought it was interesting to think about what impact is and how this is measured as it can be a simplistic term, with a temptation to measure what is most easily measurable. Poverty is multidimensional so are the solutions, and similarly the ways of measuring impact.

As researchers deeply interested in disability and poverty, we are delighted that disability was identified area for further investigation by the Global Coalition during the final discussion. For example, it is really positive to hear that the Young Lives project will be including questions about disability when it interviews the young people it has been following since 2002. There seemed to be a consensus that we do need more reliable and comparable data on childhood disability and this is being addressed to some extent by the Washington Group Questions and UNICEF's MICS.

With 11 explicit references to persons with disabilities in the SDGs, and disaggregation of data by disability is a core principle, we do need to make sure that the coalition accesses and uses this data to monitor developments over the next 15 years.

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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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