The ex­pert

Food alone is not go­ing to fix prob­lem

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS FOCUS -

AC­CORD­ING to Pro­fes­sor Jane Cal­laghan, di­rec­tor of child well­be­ing and pro­tec­tion at Stir­ling Uni­ver­sity, poverty seeps into and dam­ages many ar­eas of chil­dren’s learn­ing and devel­op­ment.

“Food poverty has im­pli­ca­tions if chil­dren are un­der-nour­ished or poorly nour­ished; there are knock-on ef­fects for brain devel­op­ment,” she says. “But food alone is not go­ing to fix it.”

She paints a dis­turb­ing pic­ture of poverty de­priv­ing chil­dren of toys and play fa­cil­i­ties to de­velop emo­tional and mo­tor skills, and the im­pact of time-poor par­ents gripped by de­pres­sion that saps their abil­ity to sup­port their chil­dren even when they want to.

“Fam­i­lies don’t have a lot of money to pro­vide ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing hol­i­days, or good-qual­ity play equip­ment. That has a neg­a­tive im­pact be­cause play is one of the most im­por­tant things for child­hood devel­op­ment,” she adds.

The stress of poverty is also an is­sue. “In-work poverty pro­duces pre­car­i­ous cir­cum­stances for par­ents. That has an im­pact on par­ent­ing prac­tices: the more stressed you are, the harder it is to be emo­tion­ally re­spon­sive to chil­dren.”

Poverty can lead to a lack of as­pi­ra­tion, she con­tin­ues. “A lot of fam­i­lies in poverty re­ally value ed­u­ca­tion. But if we don’t pay enough at­ten­tion to poverty and so­cial equal­ity is­sues, we are just putting a Band-Aid over the prob­lems.”

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