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‘Poverty affects child mental health’

01 April 2016


A REPORT that suggests that teenagers from poorer backgrounds are more likely to see themselves as failures adds to the growing body of evidence linking poverty to unhappiness and mental-health problems, the Children’s Society has said.

The report Poor Mental Health: The links between child poverty and mental-health problems, published by the Society, suggested that 20 per cent of 16- to 19-year-olds growing up in poverty felt themselves to be a failure, compared with 14 per cent of those from a more affluent background.

When questioned about their future prospects, 29 per cent of those from disadvantaged homes did not feel optimistic, compared with 22 per cent among their better-off peers. Similarly, 22 per cent of young people in poverty said that they “don’t feel useful”, compared with 18 per cent from wealthier homes.

The report also found that only one in ten mental-health trusts currently treated children in poverty as a priority group for access to mental-health services.

It argues that debt, poor housing, unemployment, isolation, and poor access to services can have an impact on children’s mental health and well-being.

The findings are based on analysis of data from the project Understanding Society, run by the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex, which regularly surveys about 20,000 British people, and from 36 replies to freedom-of-information requests to 54 providers of specialist mental-health services.

The Society is calling for all schools to have counsellors to help the needs and problems of young people who face pressures such as family poverty.

Its chief executive, Matthew Reed, said: “Evidence shows that children who live in poverty are exposed to a range of risks that can have a serious impact on their mental health, including debt, poor housing, and low income. Yet, despite this, government and health trusts are failing to recognise children in poverty as a vulnerable group for mental-health problems.

“Indeed, by cutting support for low-income families, the Government risks further entrenching the impact of poverty on the mental health of children across the country, and perpetuating the cycle. It’s time children in poverty were given the support they need.”

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