Action Needed For Disadvantaged Families - Report
14 October 2013 at 4:29 pm
Sustained poverty in early childhood can affect children’s mental and physical health and development, a report by The Benevolent Society has revealed.
The report, Acting Early, Changing Lives: How prevention and early action saves money and improves wellbeing released as part of Anti-Poverty Week, shows that 15 per cent of Australian children live in jobless families – the fourth highest rate among OECD countries.
It found that experiencing sustained poverty in early childhood may affect children’s mental and physical health and development, and their home life is likely to be more stressful. Children tend to begin school well behind their peers and lose ground further during the school years. The report also found that consequently they are more likely to be unemployed as adults, and dependent on welfare.
“The solutions to child poverty lie in helping parents into education and employment, and providing stable housing and income security,” The Benevolent Society CEO Anne Hollonds said.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics more than one in five Australians live in low economic households, and half of those are families with dependent children. The latest release of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey found that a quarter of children in single-parent households live in poverty.
The report listed 10 program and direct service level priorities, which included: providing free or low-cost pre-school provision to three-year-old children experiencing significant disadvantage to ameliorate some of the negative impacts of disadvantage; providing support to families experiencing disadvantage during the prenatal period to promote the optimal development of children; provide direct services to children and families that promote the quality of the environments in which young children spend their time to ensure that parents and other caregivers relate to children in ways that protect, nourish and promote their development and wellbeing; and build whole of community, place-based, ‘collective impact’ alliances to develop and deliver a comprehensive suite of interventions that target whole communities and address both the presenting and the background needs of vulnerable families.
“To break the cycle of disadvantage we need investment in preventive services that help parents to be the best mum or dad they can be, and ensure all kids grow up in a nurturing environment,” Hollonds said.
“Our report Acting Early, Changing Lives shows how effective prevention and early action measures for families with young children can improve children’s life chances and the earlier we act, the greater the impact for those kids and families, and the greater the return on our investment.
“The evidence shows that kids who participated in these programs did better at school, went on to earn more money, had more stable housing, better mental and overall health, and most importantly became better parents themselves.
“We know what works to break the cycle of disadvantage. Failing to invest in prevention and early action is like signing a blank cheque now for much higher future costs.”
The report Acting Early, Changing Lives can be downloaded here.