Study Reveals Child Deprivation

Filed under News, Society & People ~ by Press on  12 Mar 2019

Children in jobless households are amongst the most disadvantaged in the country.

The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) called for Newstart to be increased and for family support payments generally to be reviewed.

The report, To have and to have not [PDF download], shows the extent to which Australian children have their needs met in areas that research shows are central to a child’s wellbeing: Being Loved and Safe; Having Material Basics; Being Healthy; Learning; Participating; and, Having a Positive Sense of Identity & Culture.

The report examines deprivation levels across the general population of Australian children and specifically those living with disability, those living in monetary poverty and those living in jobless families.

The report used the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to assess these interlocking areas by selecting up to 16 key indicators to measure deprivation among Australian children. The analysis was conducted on the children in the survey, which is representative of the Australian population, when they were aged 6-7 in 2010, 8-9 in 2012 and 10-11 in 2014.

In summary the report finds:

  • Children in jobless families were more likely to suffer from a greater number of deprivations than any other group examined. For example they are more than 4 times more likely to be homeless than kids in families where an adult works, nearly twice as likely to be bullied or face social exclusion and almost two and a half times more likely to be missing out on learning at home.
  • Children in monetary poverty (that is children living below the poverty line) suffered effects far wider than just their material basics. For example they are more than 1.7 times more likely to face food insecurity, nearly twice as likely to lack good relationships with friends and almost two and a half times more likely to be missing out on learning at home.
  • Children with disability, while generally engaged and included in the family and home environment, are more likely to be experiencing significant social exclusion both at school and in the community. They are also more likely to experience deprivation across all dimensions including being up to three times more likely to lack relationships with friends, and around two times more likely to have mental health concerns.

For Australian children, the highest rate of deprivation at almost all stages was through frequent bullying or social exclusion which is as high as 28% at age 8-9. Deprivation in children’s health within Australia is relatively high and tends to get worse over time with almost 40% of children deprived in this dimension at age 10-11. Over one-quarter of children aged 10-11 are not eating any fruit or vegetables in a day. Mental health concerns are also starting early in a young person’s life, with almost 1 in 10 children aged 6-7 showing signs of social emotional stress.

Penny Dakin, CEO of ARACY said the report provides further evidence that the level of Newstart and the support given to jobless families is inadequate.

Our research shows that when a child grows up in a home where no one is working, they are much more likely to face major obstacles on a number of fronts well beyond simply not having enough money.

It means these kids are more likely to be homeless, to be bullied at school, not get regular or healthy meals and miss out on school excursions. The child may also be impacted by other issues that prevent parents working such parental mental illness, addiction or disability.

Our punitive unemployment benefits system is adding to the hardship these children face. Kids born into families where no one works have no choice in the matter. Yet they are effectively penalised because of the stigma attached to their parents. This is a double tragedy because not only does it make kids’ lives harder today, but all the research shows that when kids grow up in adverse conditions, they are much more likely to suffer issues such as unemployment, ill-health and jail as adults.

Getting people into work is a complex business. According to the ABS there is just one job available for every 8 people who are unemployed or underemployed. This being the case, the low Newstart rate can never work as an incentive for people with complex needs to find a job. But it does help ensure their kids face a whole range of extra problems. It’s time to raise the Newstart rate and give kids in these families a fair go,” Ms Dakin said.

To help ensure more Australian children receive the opportunities they need to reach their potential, the report makes five other recommendations including:

  • Healthy bodies – introduce regulation to reduce the amount of unhealthy food marketing reaching children. The National Health and Medical Research Council suggests that the increased marketing of unhealthy foods is one significant factor that has contributed to the large increase in the prevalence of obesity over the past few decades.
  • Healthy minds – prioritise preventative and early intervention programs to improve the mental health of Australia’s infants and children. The report has shown that poor mental health can start early in a child’s life, with almost 10% of children aged 6-7 showing signs of social emotional stress. Interventions that seek to improve prenatal maternal health, as well as those that support children living in families experiencing adversity should be prioritised.  An example of such a program is right@home which provides sustained nurse home visiting for families who are at risk.
  • Safe at school – introduce evidence-based anti-bullying programs in ALL Australian schools. Up to 28% of children aged 6-11 are bullied or experience social exclusion on a regular basis.  While a National Safe Schools Framework exists, a study of 25 schools found that less than half of these schools had applied the framework in the development of an anti-bullying policy. ARACY recommends the Australian Government, through COAG and funding agreements with non-government education systems, ensure ALL schools have and implement an evidence-based anti-bullying policy and strategy.
  • Widen the school gates – a more inclusive education system with adequate resourcing. Our analysis finds children with disability tend to be socially excluded within the community and at school. A review of 280 studies in 25 countries found strong evidence on the benefits of inclusive education for students with and without disability. The review found that children with disabilities who are included in mainstream education “develop stronger skills in reading and mathematics, have higher rates of attendance, are less likely to have behavioural problems, and are more likely to complete secondary school than students who have not been included.” In light of this evidence, it is recommended the Australian Government, through COAG and funding agreements with non-government education systems, adopt a national approach to establishing a more inclusive education system with adequate resourcing.
  • Get to know our kids better – better data on our children to guide better policy. Without a deep understanding of the major issues faced by Australia’s children, it is not possible to develop good policy to help ensure every young Australian can get a good start in life. Our report makes a number of recommendations on how we can better understand the challenges our children face.

To see the full report please visit the ARACY website.

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