Poverty 'Doubles the Risk of Child Social Problems'

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Blackley Scottish Political Reporter

CHILDREN as young as five from poorer backgrounds are twice as likely to suffer physical and social problems, a new study suggests.

Researchers found that a young child's home life can have a damaging impact for years, leading to problems such as obesity, lack of confidence and poor social skills.

Save The Children, which carried out the study, has urged the Scottish Government to take action by providing more parenting classes and extending free pre-school education to two-year-olds who live in poverty.

The report, published today, is based on a study of 3,000 children.

It concludes that youngsters brought up in poverty are twice as likely as better-off peers to have problems in terms of physical development, emotional issues and difficulties in self expression.

They are also 50 per cent more likely to have difficulty with 'social knowledge and competence', such as mixing well with others, and 40 per cent more likely to be behind others in terms of learning.

Douglas Hamilton, head of Save The Children in Scotland, said: 'There's not a simple answer in terms of why this happens. One of the main things we draw attention to is the link with poverty and parents struggling with raising families on low income, which can have a massive impact, and children growing up in poor backgrounds who do not get the same opportunities as other children.

'We call for free pre-school education for two-year-olds growing up in poverty and this is something that happens in England but is not happening in Scotland.

'For every month a child spends in pre-school education to the age of two, it can have a positive impact and give them more opportunity and you can begin to alleviate the effects of social disadvantage.' He said that 'parenting and family support' programmes should be used to help mothers and fathers at an early stage, in order to ensure that any problems for the child do not develop.

Mr Hamilton added: 'We find a lot with parents we work with that they are often isolated and do not have a lot of support in their community, have the stresses of low income and do not have good educational experiences themselves. …