What Works in Supporting Children and Young People to Overcome Persistent Poverty? A review of UK and international literature

Gill Featherstone, Kerry Martin, Julie Nelson

02 May 2013

This review was undertaken by NFER for the Office for the First Minister/Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) in Northern Ireland. It was undertaken to inform the research base upon which equality and social need policies are developed and evaluated in Northern Ireland. Although the review had this specific focus, it is international in scope and draws on evidence that is much wider than the Northern Ireland context solely.

The review was originally commissioned to answer the question: ‘What works in supporting children and young people to break the international poverty cycle?’ However, as a result of key review findings, and in agreement with the client, the title was changed to: ‘What works in supporting children and young people to overcome persistent poverty?’

Key Findings

  • the concept of ‘intergenerational poverty’ is more imagined than real. Authors rebut the notion on two counts: concerns about the concept itself; and an evidence-based assessment of the reality of the phenomenon.
  • There are a variety of more useful ways of defining poverty – ‘persistent’ poverty being a less politicised means of conceptualising the problems faced by families living in communities besieged by poverty over a long time period.
  • there are a range of factors that can support positive outcomes for persistently poor children – it is critical that at least equal policy attention is given to structural barriers to equality, as to the concept of a ‘behaviour’ of poverty or worklessness.