As part of their Poverty Workstream strategy, the North East and North Cumbria Child Health and Wellbeing Network commissioned our charity to investigate the barriers that children and young people living in low income households face in accessing health settings, writes our Poverty Proofing Team Manager, Lorna Nicoll. From our Poverty Proofing the School Day work, we know that poverty affects the lives of children and young people in myriad ways and so we jumped at the opportunity.
We spoke with a geographically diverse set of children, young people and their families about a broad range of health settings – from GPs, to dentists, from hospitals, to specialist clinics. Whilst these settings vary widely in terms of what they offer, where they are located and the people they serve, it is possible to identify recurring themes such as transport considerations and appointment times. It also reminded us of the importance of understanding the experiences of individuals and their families. To those of us with cars or the ability to access a fully integrated public transport system, we can overlook the significance these barriers have for families living in poverty.
Many of the key themes are interrelated and, taking into consideration the range of inequalities those living in poverty experience, this means that those on low incomes are more likely to experience more barriers. This was just one parent’s feedback:
“…expensive bus or expensive parking and disjointed appointments. I once had three appointments over two days for various children. Would have been much easier to combine so I only had to take time off work and pay for parking once.”
Many of us could slip into poverty. In 2016 Shelter reported that one in three working families were one pay slip away from losing their house. However given the widespread effects of the pandemic, it is clear that those already living in poverty are likely to be pushed deeper in, alongside a significant number falling into poverty for the first time. Consultations like these are timely and important and we hope they serve to highlight the importance of involving children, young people and their families in identifying barriers and creating solutions.
The better understanding organisations have of the lived experience of their users / patients / pupils / clients, the more efficient we become at eradicating barriers, in order that everyone has the opportunity to live a long, happy and fulfilling life.