I was interested to read the new report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, We can solve poverty in the UK.  It describes how almost anyone can experience poverty. We at Relate know that unexpected events such as bereavement, illness, redundancy or relationship breakdown are sometimes all it can take to push us into circumstances that then become difficult to escape.

The report warns that "Child poverty is projected to rise sharply over the next four years and working-age poverty is likely to rise in the longer term unless action is taken now."

I have written previously about the differences in attitude between those in Wesminster and those in our Senedd about relationship support (Wales, I believe, is unfortunately behind England on this).

The report contains a number of recommendations for various audiences - in terms of governments and local authorities, one that I feel is particularly relevant to Relate's agenda is about Supporting families

Recommendation: Develop effective prevention and early intervention networks in every local area

  • Where practical, local authorities should bring together child and family services, including relationship support, parenting advice and family and mental health services, with advice and support on material and financial matters.
  • National governments should support this activity by investing an additional £800 million each year in children’s centres and family support services across the UK, providing a universal and inclusive platform. The immediate priority should be to revitalise these in areas with higher deprivation and weaker early intervention services.
  • Governments should support good parenting by prioritising programmes that are effective at supporting parents of children with behavioural problems (cost: £38 million per year), and focusing on good parental mental health. Perinatal mental health services should be brought up to the level recommended by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.
  • All children and family support services should give greater attention to how well they meet the needs of those low-income families who may be least well served, including ethnic minority families, single-parent families and families with disabled children or disabled parents. 

For most of us, families and friends are the main buffers we have against poverty. But where this support is not in place, social networks, charities and communities have a huge role to play. We can all play our part in strengthening the buffers against poverty by getting involved with our local communities to reduce isolation and making sure that we strengthen our relationships with partners, families, neighbours, workmates and communities.

Too often, portrayals of people in poverty fail to reflect the immense effort that people put into making ends meet, budgeting, supporting families and friends, improving their lives and communities, making choices and taking chances to escape poverty.

I appreciate that this report is highlighting the need for investment in relationship support in order to prevent poverty. 

Here's a short video of Martin Sheen talking about the report

Adding a Relate perspective

Lots of research tells us that poverty is both a cause and effect of relationship breakdown: poverty can put pressure on relationships leading to increased likelihood of relationship breakdown; but so too relationship breakdown can itself lead to poverty.

Consequently, any plan to prevent poverty as part of the Tackling Poverty Action Plan in Wales and the Child Poverty Strategy to which it is linked, must include policy action to support good-quality relationships and prevent relationship breakdown.