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Give critical explanation of the meaning of the term ‘poverty’

Understand the contrasting theories which are utilized to explain the causes of poverty. eg. new right & Marxism

Compare and contrast two current theories on the causes of poverty.

Appreciate attempts to alleviate the problem of poverty. (governments take on poverty, its worth distribution, make benefits: universal/target-meanstested)

Identify and assess contemporary strategies for remedial action (e.g. targeting, university) in terms of addressing the problem of poverty. life chances : how poverty impact on peoples life.. Research on ( breadline Britain , Joseph Rowntree, hungry Britain (food bank), sheddrack and Macdonald.)
Evaluate the results of studies carried out to investigate the effects of poverty on people’s life chances.

Definition of poverty

Over time, a number of definitions regarding the concept of poverty have evolved but the first bulk of sociological concept of poverty can be traced back to 1890s. The vast amount of study resulted in the concepts of in-come related poverty lines which were defined as the minimum amount of income which was needed to generate by the families in order to secure the basic level of health and decency. The sociological definition of poverty revolves around the social condition which is typically characterized by the lack of material resources significant for the bare survival of a human being.

Absolute poverty is the notion of living a livelihood on the U.S equivalent of $2 and even less. Although many social theorists have criticized the concept for providing somewhat an incomplete reflection of the economic condition of the society, nevertheless the concept of absolute poverty has been helpful in policymaking in reducing poverty. Many scholars have indeed conducted intense amount of research on the suppression of social, cultural and economic rights by civil and political rights. Relative poverty, on the other hand relative poverty is a conditioned by the low income rate of households below the stipulated standard of living in a particular society. In UK, relative poverty is when the people are living on less than 60% of median income. The term was developed by Peter Townsend forming a sharp contrast to the idea of absolute poverty. In the realm of social definition of poverty, relative poverty can be characterized by inadequate or minimum amount of diet with a severe lack of resources required for a standard living. It is however, essential to comprehend the huge difference between relatively poor and poor. Sociology has also identified a particular group of people who refuses to accept their general lack of resources even after being categorized falling below the relative poverty line, as living in ‘denial’ (Lenin and Chretien 2015).

The study of relative poverty is essential since it recognizes the needs and lacks of the people and identifies the section of society who seriously fall below the relative poverty line. The measurement is subjected to huge differences because of countries and purchasing power. This hints to the fact that people considered as living below relative poverty line in developed countries are richer than those who are struggling in developing nations. The concepts of relative and absolute poverty point to the flaws of a society and its inability to provide for its people, this can also denote the political weaknesses (Lambie-Mumford 2015).

Absolute poverty and relative poverty

  1. Marginalization and deprivation of the household from basic amenities like hygiene, sanitation, education and health services.
  2. The children remain marginalized in schools and society and deprived from basic attributes that would shape their future of the better.
  3. Unemployment is another pitfall of poverty resulting in emotional and behavioral problems within the children

Advantages of Poverty

  1. The creation of political awareness in the poor is more conservative when compared to other scenarios (Ball 2016). In U.K, this has resulted in the large-scale support of the Democratic Party and fight the corruption of the corporate group of institutions.
  2. The preservation of cultural entertainment is seen best within the poor people, for instance the preservation of jazz culture (Ball 2016). The same can also be witnessed in the preservation of food habits.

Government measures poverty either by the scale of relative poverty by looking at the median income of a household. Earning below 60% is considered to be living in relative poverty. It is important to study how far society is addressing the needs of the people and the consumption pattern of different individuals. According to Sen, poverty is best given a vivid description in terms of capabilities which are required to escape from poverty (Ball 2016).

1.1 Poverty is a period which is characterized by an intense hunger and starvation, lack of education and alienation from basic facilities like healthcare. Social exclusion is one of the major consequences of poverty, which ultimately result in marginalization

  1. In the Marxist’s concept, poverty is inherent and a dominant result of a Marxist state and their process of production. His only solution for the eradication of poverty is by altering the means of production of the society and the necessary for a revolution to ensure the equal distribution of income amongst the members of the society (Valletta 2006). As long as the capitalist class exploits the labour class, Marx opines that poverty will persist and the private enterprises will continue to be benefitted the most by the system. According to the concept of New Rights, the underclass or the poor people desire to remain in the realm of poverty due to the state provisions that they enjoy. They believe that capitalism is sufficient for providing resources however, the growing dependence on state resources has attributed to unemployment and depletion of state resources. This state of poverty has an adverse impact on the government draining a huge portion of the economy (Goodwin and Milazzo 2015). The conclusion on reading this approach is that the state should limit its resources while donating to the so called poor. The theory is concerned more with apathetic behaviour of an individual while dealing with poverty and unemployment while Marxist theory probes into the root causes of poverty, exploitation of poor and inequality.

2.1 Individual poverty, the theory denotes that poverty is an individual phenomenon which is in contrast to the theory of structural poverty that points to the helplessness of people and failure of the economic system to  deliver people adequate wages. The structural theory blames the economic structure of the country while individual theory is more concerned with the fact that people have grown apathetic towards their condition and doing nothing worthwhile about it (Goodwin and Milazzo 2015)..

  1. The government of U.K has realized the need for a new approach to address the issues like drug abuse, unemployment, alcohol dependency and debt. Government’s Social Mobility Strategy was formulated to ensure better education opportunities to make sure that the children have better prospects in shaping their future irrespective of their family background (Svallfors 2007). Consequently this has resulted in a better integration within the society, where children from poverty stricken households are given an opportunity to nurture themselves. It offers means-tested benefits to those young people who come from lesser privileged background providing promising employment and education benefits. It has invested 50 million euro to boost the education system starting from early education and 23 million for education talented minds from under-developed households (Treble 2018). The second initiative is Healthy Lives, Healthy Peoplewhich aimed for promoting public health and well-being and empowering the community with knowledge regarding eradication of major health issues and measures so that people can get access to better health facilities. The strategy was a breakthrough to reduce health inequalities irrespective of people’s financial status (Ross-Houle et al. 2017). It offers universal benefits with the creation of public health clinics, primary care trusts to make sure people are living a healthy life within their households.
    • Some of the remedial actions for poverty could be:
  2. The creation of a new approach to meet with the crisis of 21stcentury labour market like reduction  in the supply of lower end jobs (Cooper 2014). This would require the government in development of skills and capabilities within the poverty stricken population to make them gain jobs.
  3. Funding for university education for the poor by the government that will make them ready for the competitive job market.
  4. Allocation of more resources and better hygiene is government funded schools to encourage education. Upgrading the quality of midday meals would be one such strategy.
  5. Increase rewards and incentive structure for low wage labours. A thorough survey of what people need the most in 2018 for sustenance can prompt the government to provide them to poor people (Treble 2018). This could help them in improving their general living standard. The survey should be aptly based on the type of the household, for instance UK has witnessed the sprawling up of lone parents household, disabled people divorced and people with low qualifications struggling to make the ends meet.
  6. The government should work in collaboration with major industry leaders for the creation of jobs and sustainable growth of the poverty stricken population.
  7. Creation of Rebalancing Fund to allot resources and inclusive growth in town with low employment rate.
  8. Making new strategies by the government on stabilizing economic development. The government can concentrate on trade policies. This would also help the domestic firms to overcome cultural barriers and create more job opportunities for lesser qualified people. The policies will further accelerate U.K’s competitive edge in the global market.
  9. Monitoring of employment outcomes for handicapped people, scrutinizing scenarios resulting in employment gaps, lack of skills and knowledge, and hygiene related ideas. This would be beneficial in making the people aim for better lives with a sustaining job.

The Breadline Britain Project has conducted remarkable survey on the consequences of poverty and recession on people. It highlights how people have been struggling at the face of low income and high living costs, growing rate of youth unemployment which resulted in homelessness which rose drastically since 2014 and more than 1.5 lakh people found themselves low qualified and unfit for jobs. The group identified as NEETS which denotes not in employment, education or training has become the face of poverty gripped U.K. It also identifies how large sections of people are under-paid, the massive ratio of fresh graduates working in low skilled jobs and the low rates of graduate recruitment in 2016. The project has however ensured that thousands of young adults carry on with their education by providing education allowances (Lansley and Mack 2015). The Joseph Rowntree Foundation defines the consequences of poverty as living life with a growing feeling of insecurity because of financial scarcity. This pushes people into an abyss of depressions and prevents them from taking part in society. Their campaign of Solve Poverty has long-term approach to make major change in the society and economic pattern. In Britain the charitable organizations have stepped forward to eradicate food scarcity which is one of the predominant results of poverty in Britain. The serious rise food poverty in Britain is un-avoidable in UK which is considered the seventh richest country. According to statistics millions of family are living below breadline and the situation is aggravated further by rising housing prices from 2010 to 2013. The poorer population of UK is steadily attracted to fast food chains like McDonald that offer unhealthy range of foods. As a result of low-income and poverty, the families are highly dependent on these fast foods resulting in health problems like heart diseases, obesity and stroke (Treble 2018).

Advantages of Poverty

3.2 Effects of poverty on people’s life chances

Life chances are affected by social classes which are segregated on the basis of economic status. Poverty in UK has primarily made the victims incapable of associating with the mainstream society due to inadequate resources. Vast amount of research has been conducted to study the effect of poverty with the result that it has a significantly negative effect on people’s life chances. It degrades the quality of life by affecting education of the next within these households, inadequate amount of money in bank accounts and therefore half of the families in UK face severe challenge to allocate resources even for a simple survival (Goodwin and Milazzo 2015). Research has shown that it results in social insecurities amongst children, bullied childhood, lack of parental support, premature death amongst children due to the inability of parents to afford for a proper healthcare. The state of housing and sanitation also has a negative impact on the mental state of children. Sometimes the low income families let go off basic living conditions and amenities due to food. They become isolated from their family and friends and fall victim to crime and violence, illegal works and even sexual exploitation.In UK more than 60,000 children are therefore placed under child protection. For the younger generation, poverty is the most evil since it also result in cognitive imbalances creating a vicious life cycle for its victims who find themselves unable to come out of the grasp of poverty (Goodwin and Milazzo 2015). Therefore, in a nutshell it can be concluded that poverty results in child labour, degradation of education, poor health, psychological disturbances, drug addiction, social isolation, negativity within household and homelessness.

21st century UK has around one-fifth and a quarter of households placed in the private rental coupled with rent-free housing for homeless people is also common. The young students are at an advantageous position with tenant system although they face rigidity regarding house rents and insecurities. Currently in UK, the rental system is very popular with more than 5.8 million households are under private rental. It will rise over the next few years as in UK owing a house is a faraway dream. Professionals aged from 25-34 are the largest occupants of these houses. In the history of housing system in Britain, there were a number of houses ranging from workhouse during the World War I, however the period 1930 saw a booming number of houses in the suburbia like Buckinghamshire owing to growing number of middle class and Housing Act of 1930 which called for abolition of slums. Post WW II UK has witnessed crisis in housing due to material and labour shortage. Most of the population lived in rental, while during 1950s council housing was most common (Morago and Bolger 2016). During the last few decades building of houses has again witnessed a sharp decline In UK, Brexit has resulted in a sharp decline of house prices. Financial analysts have predicted a weakened real estate market resulting in an acute dearth of property (Morago and Bolger 2016). Presently UK is witnessing a major housing crisis and local authority is unable to cope up with the increasing rates of new housing and growing rate of homelessness. The council has built 3,000 new homes comparatively lower than what should have been. The housing association of UK is the last hope for people and millions of houses are rented from local authorities and housing associations today since private tenant and its rate accelerated radically, the tenants depend on housing benefit to pay. Owner occupation is the most unpopular of housing accommodation has fallen to its lowest level since 1960 in UK due to people’s reliability on private rent. Data has shown that a majority of children are growing up in privately rented homes (MacInnes et al. 2014).

Individual poverty vs structural poverty

5.Concept of homelessness in UK

Homelessness has radically increased in England with over 30,000 people sleeping outside more pronounced in the areas of Southend-on-Sea and Swindon, as authorities reveal. Possibilities are that it can rise up to 170% in the coming years unless eliminated by government (MacInnes et al. 2014). The population is composed of 14% women and 8% of young people below 25 years of age. Homelessness has given rise to violence and sexual exploitation (MacInnes et al. 2014). This is not only apparent in the streets, but a number of homeless couples along with children are forced to take shelter on friends’ sofa or other temporary accommodation. The un-affordability of house and unemployment are two prime reasons of homelessness, loss of private tenancy is another prime reason. However, the helplessness of local ministers to accommodate for moderately priced shelters is astounding here (Healy 2017).

5.1Strength and Weakness of current policy on homelessness


  1. The poorer families will get benefitted as the policy aims to eradicate the prime factors of homelessness in the very first place. The policy has offered to help threatened victims help and support within 28-56 days (MacInnes et al. 2014).
  2. The families will receive financial support and debt advice as the policy will economically fund people during tough times.


  1. The policy fails to provide immediate relief to psychological distress and mental trauma as well as long-term physical health problems like alcohol abuse and cancer
  2. The failure of the policy to allocate resources for employment and education to the homeless lot. Therefore it does nothing to reduce the social stigma that homeless people suffer through (Gordon 2002).


In conclusion it can be stated that UK has witnessed a steep rise in poverty, lack of housing accommodation and the soaring scandal of being unable to provide shelter to people. The situation is worsening due to rising home rent and failure on the part of government to address these issues. We can assert that all these factors have contributed to social exclusion and a troubled childhood of the majority of population.

Reference List:

Ball, S.J., 2016. Education, justice and democracy: The struggle over ignorance and opportunity. In Reimagining the Purpose of Schools and Educational Organisations (pp. 189-205). Springer, Cham.

Boyd, J.E., Bassett, E.D. and Hoff, R., 2016. Internalized stigma of mental illness and depressive and psychotic symptoms in homeless veterans over 6 months. Psychiatry research, 240, pp.253-259.

Bradshaw, J. ed., 2016. The Well-being of Children in the UK. Policy Press.

Brewer, M., Browne, J., Joyce, R. and Payne, J., 2011. Child and working-age poverty from 2010 to 2020. London: Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Cooper, N., 2014. Walking the Breadline: The scandal of food poverty in 21st-century Britain. Oxfam.

Cunningham, H., 2014. Children and childhood in western society since 1500. Routledge.

Dickerson, A. and Popli, G.K., 2016. Persistent poverty and children's cognitive development: evidence from the UK Millennium Cohort Study. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society), 179(2), pp.535-558.

Garthwaite, K., 2016. Stigma, shame and'people like us': an ethnographic study of foodbank use in the UK. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice, 24(3), pp.277-289.

Garthwaite, K., 2016. Hunger pains: life inside foodbank Britain. Policy Press.

Goodwin, M. and Milazzo, C., 2015. Britain, the European Union and the Referendum: What Drives Euroscepticism?. Chatham House, p.6.

Gordon, D., 2002, May. Measuring poverty and social exclusion in Britain. In Conference on “The Dynamics of Poverty”, Budapest (pp. 24-25).

Healy, J.D., 2017. Housing, fuel poverty and health: a pan-European analysis. Routledge.

Lambie-Mumford, H. and Dowler, E., 2014. Rising use of “food aid” in the United Kingdom. British Food Journal, 116(9), pp.1418-1425.

Lansley, S. and Mack, J., 2015. Breadline Britain: The rise of mass poverty. Oneworld Publications.

Lenin, V.I. and Chretien, T., 2015. State and revolution. Haymarket Books.

MacInnes, T., Bushe, S., Tinson, A., Born, T.B. and Aldridge, H., 2014. Monitoring poverty and social exclusion 2014. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Morago, P. and Bolger, J., 2016. Poverty and social exclusion. In Social Policy for Social Work, Social Care and the Caring Professions (pp. 107-124). Routledge.

Piachaud, D., Sutherland, H. and Sefton, T., 2003. Poverty in Britain: the impact of government policy since 1997. Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Ravallion, M., 2017. Poverty comparisons. Routledge.

Ross-Houle, K., Venturas, C., Bradbury, A. and Porcellato, L., 2017. An exploration of the role of alcohol in the life experiences of the homeless population in Merseyside, UK.

Treble, J.H., 2018. Urban poverty in Britain 1830-1914 (Vol. 8). Routledge.

Valletta, R.G., 2006. The ins and outs of poverty in advanced economies: Government policy and poverty dynamics in Canada, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States. Review of Income and Wealth, 52(2), pp.261-284.

Van den Berg, A., 2018. The immanent Utopia: From Marxism on the state to the state of Marxism. Routledge.

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