Demos

Poverty in Perspective

The toolkit

About

The Demos poverty analysis was ‘designed to be used’. In other words, we did not want to create a measure or analysis that would simply tell us something new about poverty, without considering its practical application.

Our multi-faceted analysis of poverty lends itself to a multi-faceted response – several agencies working together in different configurations, to tackle each poverty group in a different way. It certainly isn’t an easy task, particularly when some of the poverty types we identify have combinations of indicators which don’t naturally lend themselves to joint working.

For example, it is predictable and not too challenging to suggest that health and social care services work together to help someone in poverty partly due to a long-term health condition. But what about adult education and social housing? Befriending and debt advice? Some of these less well-known combinations require guidance.

This toolkit is designed to provide this guidance. It helps practitioners and policymakers to develop their response to addressing different poverty types. It takes as its starting point our 15 national poverty types, but the same process can be used to guide both national and local strategies.

We spoke to Paul Hayes of Wakefield council about the challenges of tackling poverty locally:

In these tabs, we have focused on how the process might work for tackling ‘pressured parents’ poverty, combining both national and local priorities for policy and practice change. The local strategies have been drawn in part from the scoping exercise we carried out with three separate local authorities on their local responses to poverty. You can read more about our local piloting experiences, and the challenges of local data, in our report.

Click through the tabs above to view the 5 stages of the toolkit – description, identification, harnessing existing resources, committing new resources and evaluation.

Description

The first thing practitioners need to know in order to build a response to one of the types of poverty is what that group looks like; what combinations of problems are they experiencing? How do they interact? What is the most significant dimension?

Example: description

‘Pressured parents’ is a type of poverty which is challenging to tackle, and comes with entrenched material deprivation, fuel poverty and difficulties in paying bills.

Pressured parents are more likely to be large families, with 2 parents and 4-5 children, and most likely to have a child with a disability or have a disability or poor health themselves, as well as very likely to be unemployed or working in very low skilled and low paid jobs. Pressured parent families are also likely to be renting, in overcrowded and poor quality accommodation. Living in areas with larger black and ethnic minority (BME) populations, they are more likely to be from an ethnic minority group and not have English as a first language.

These factors interact within the group – low skills and employment are likely to cause financial pressure and material deprivation, impacting on the mental health of both parents and children within the family. In turn, living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods with few job prospects present an obstacle to ‘pressured parents’ finding work.

Identification

Practitioners next need to think about how they will recognise these types in their local population – by knowing the size of the group, and the services that they are most likely to already be in contact with.

Example: identification

Pressured parents are the third most prevalent child poverty type in the national population – forming 21 per cent of our sample of low-income families.

Key services in which pressured parents will have most contact with are health and social care – both adult and childen’s services and including mental health teams – JobCentre Plus and children’s centres, SureStart, nurseries and schools. Key voluntary sector organisations most likely to be helping pressured parents are debt advice organisations, carers’ support services, specific BME community groups and asylum seeker support groups, and, in some areas, emergency food banks.

Existing Resources

At this stage, local practitioners and policymakers need to think about what services are already in place to target people experiencing each type of poverty, and how the dimensions of their poverty can be addressed through existing policies and interventions. In some cases, disparate services can be brought together more effectively to tackle multiple and complex needs.

Example: harnessing existing resources

Large families with young children, who are significantly materially deprived and who have health needs, might be reached and helped by improving information sharing and joint working between schools, nurseries and children’s social services, and health support services for parents.

Support services should be aware to the fact that many in this group will be both caring for adults or children in poor health, and be in poor health themselves – requiring dual support mechanisms. This group’s health needs may well be associated with or exacerbated by poor housing, and so health visitors and community nurses will be an important arm of health support for these families.

Pressured parents tend to either have strong links with their neighbours and families, or be socially isolated due to ill health - two ends of the engagement spectrum - so are less likely to be accessing external community groups compared to others in poverty. This may make them harder to reach. However, they may well be in contact with mosques and temples, and outreach through these channels should be investigated.

This group are most likely to be found in social housing and in low quality, low rent private accommodation, in deprived neighbourhoods where they experience crime and anti-social behaviour. Inappropriate housing (in terms of size or location) is a significant concern for this group, who may therefore be found on social housing lists.

However, a small number feel that their housing (though still poor) represents an improvement on their previous accommodation, and for that reason may not seek a move. This may mean thinking laterally – not just looking at housing waiting lists to find pressured parents but also working with housing associations to see who is in arrears and residents’ associations to help identify families in the community in poor housing and struggling to get by.

Social housing providers will be a key partner in identifying and helping pressured parents households. They should be co-opted as a partner in supporting health needs, improving employment outcomes and tackling material deprivation.

New Resources

Additional steps may need to be taken to lift people in each of the types out of poverty – in terms of extra services and interventions, new policies and strategies, and changing allocation of resources.

Example: committing new resources

Pressured parents are eager to find work, but find this difficult due to circumstances beyond their control, caring responsibilities for family members in poor health, and where they live – often their homes are in deprived areas where jobs are scarce.

Therefore, increasing affordable, warm, good quality and accessible housing – in areas where there are job opportunities – is vital to help pressured parents over the longer term. Social housing with health support services in place would be ideal. Such a strategy could improve both health and employment outcomes.

Improving carer support services, with the objective of improving carers’ own health and facilitating their access to employment, is another key investment priority. Health and Wellbeing Boards must be alerted to the importance of poor housing and overcrowding as a driver of poor health among adults and children, and identify carers as a group at risk of poor health in their own right.

Evaluating Progress

To know that these interventions are having an effect on multi-dimensional poverty types is not as simple as measuring income. However, for each type, there are outcomes that can be tracked to show improvement within this type.

Example: evaluating progress

Pressured parents have significant material deprivation and often unmanageable debt. These symptoms of this type of poverty may be the most ‘visible’ and progress could be monitored through reductions in rent arrears and evictions.

However, the key driver of this poverty is often unemployability – due to poor health, caring responsibilities and living in deprived areas with few job opportunities. Progress on these fronts will include increased employment among disabled people and carers, but also reductions in housing waiting lists and reductions in overcrowding among large families, particularly those from BME groups.