Coping with Complexity: child and adult poverty

Coping with Complexity

Price £11.00   99 pages    ISBN 978 1 906076 36 8

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Published 2009.

Authors: Mark Tomlinson and Robert Walker

Despite having been on the political agenda for a decade, child and adult poverty is rising. But what is poverty? Do current definitions and measurements capture its impact on children and the adults who care for them?

This radical new analysis considers the impact poverty has on children’s lives. It shows that, while lack of income is an important aspect of poverty, it is about much more. Poverty is about stress, poor housing, lack of facilities, inadequate infrastructure, fear of crime and problems associated with living in a deprived area. Poverty not only prevents people from buying the things they need, it also them fulfilling personal ambitions and exploiting opportunities. It generates poor physical and mental health, and absorbs the time and resources required for social and political engagement.

Coping with Complexity argues that current definitions, models and measurements do not reflect the dynamic, multi-dimensional nature of poverty. Nor do they capture the impact of adult poverty on children’s wellbeing in the here and now. The measurements often conflict, with a person measured as poor on one index and not on another. Coping with Complexity addresses these limitations, presenting an exciting new model to help us understand poverty’s various dimensions, and calls for the same techniques to be used to improve policies.

Coping with Complexity identifies fundamental problems with a government strategy that has failed to confront the various interlinked causes and consequences of poverty. A tendency to tackle single causes and specific outcomes has generated poorly targeted and ineffectual policies, which over-emphasise employment as the principal antidote to poverty. Coping with Complexity is essential reading for researchers and policymakers – and for the Government. It calls for a much more holistic approach that addresses the different aspects of poverty and their impact on the lives of children. It provides a radical and re-energised approach, which, if implemented, would have an immediate impact on the 3.9 million children currently living in poverty in Britain.