Fair Shares and Families: Children's Perceptions of Material Resource Distributions and Decision-Making Within Families

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Education

Abstract

This research is concerned with child poverty in the UK, and with the links between children's experiences of poverty and their subjective well-being (SWB). It will focus on how resources are shared within families, and how different patterns of resource sharing are associated with child poverty and SWB. A longitudinal mixed-methods approach will be adopted, collecting data from children and families through an ethnography and three waves of a longitudinal survey. This will enable the integration of rich qualitative data with representative survey data, and will help to ensure that children's views are central to how family sharing patterns are understood and measured. The use of longitudinal mixed methods will also facilitate methodological development, as such an approach has rarely been used in research with children. Children aged 10-18 and their families will be targeted, and families across the socio-economic spectrum will be involved so that the nature and impact of different sharing patterns can be explored in relation to socio-economic status. A theoretical model of intra-family sharing and a quantitative tool to assess sharing patterns from children's perspectives will be developed. The Children's Society and Leeds City Council Children's Services will act as partners on the project, and have been involved in developing this proposal.

This project addresses a topical issue and has the potential to inform policy and public debates about the nature of child poverty and its association with SWB. Child poverty and the SWB of children are both high on the UK policy agenda. The failure of successive governments to meet the goals of the 2010 Child Poverty Act has resulted in debates about the definition and measurement of poverty, and plans to scrap the Act's targets. This relates to parallel debates about the relative importance of economic factors versus SWB in assessing national performance. The Office of National Statistics was tasked in 2010 with developing national measures of well-being to supplement economic measures of progress. However, international analysis of children's SWB conducted as part of the Children's Worlds study (Rees and Main, 2015) shows that the UK performs poorly, ranked 14th out of 15 countries in terms of children's overall life satisfaction and 9th in terms of their satisfaction with material resources. This research will offer new insights on the extent to which material resources are important for children's SWB, thus contributing to debates around how child poverty should be measured and whether an ongoing commitment to its eradication should be reinstated.

The measurement of child poverty in the UK has to date largely relied on household income. This represents an indirect approach to poverty measurement, in that the extent to which household income translates into living standards for individual household members is mediated by factors such as household debts and outgoings, and the needs, preferences and influence on financial decisions of other household members. Previous research has found that adults report going without a range of necessities, and sacrificing a range of their own needs, to provide for children. But children's perceptions of how resources are shared are absent from this research. Partially as a result of this, the links between child poverty and children's SWB have been elusive. However, measuring child poverty directly and based on children's own perceptions of their needs can help to illuminate these links (Main, 2013). Additionally, findings from a survey of 800 14-year-old children indicated that their perceptions of the fairness of how resources are shared in their household can offer even more insight into the links between household poverty, individual material living standards, and SWB (Main, forthcoming). This project will build on this work through an investigation of how resources are shared within families, and the links between this and child SWB.

Planned Impact

The proposed research is highly topical to public debates around the nature of child poverty, the relative importance of economic and subjective well-being in assessing national performance, and links between poverty and well-being. The ultimate goal is to influence and inform policy through contributing to the body of evidence needed to reduce child poverty and the negative effects this has on children, families, and society as a whole. The contribution of this research is through incorporating children's perspectives. It will have relevance to a range of users across the public and civil society sectors.
Achieving high impact is a central concern in the development and execution of this proposal, and a co-production model has been adopted with The Children's Society (TCS) and Leeds City Council Children's Services (LCCCS). Co-production will draw on the expertise of an advisory group comprising academics, policymakers (UNICEF), public sector partners (LCCCS) and civil society partners (TCS). The advisory group includes direct beneficiaries of the research and members will be able to mobilise their networks to help ensure findings reach a range of audiences to include:

1. Policymakers (eg. All Party Parliamentary Working Groups on Children, on Families, and on Poverty), campaigning organisations (eg. the Child Poverty Action Group and the Women's Budget Group) and think tanks (eg. Demos) who can use findings to improve the design of policies relating to child poverty and well-being, and to inform debates about the role of social policies in addressing them.

2. Public and civil society organisations including LCCCS,TCS and other practitioners in statutory and civil society roles, for example social workers for local authorities and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, who can use findings to inform their awareness of the issues children and families in poverty may be facing, and tailor interventions with families struggling to discuss and share limited resources.

3. Children and families who will be able to access materials based on research outputs and produced in accessible formats to increase their understandings of how they discuss and share material resources in their families, and whether different strategies may be useful to them.

4. The media and general public are interested in the issues of child poverty and well-being. Findings will contribute to wider public debate about maximising the effectiveness of public investment in poverty eradication and improving well-being, and about how we can best assist poor children and families.
Short term impact will primarily be via partner organisations who will incorporate findings into their bodies of knowledge and working practices. Alongside the PI they will mobilise their networks to disseminate findings through a project website hosted by TCS and linked to a University of Leeds site. TCS media and communications teams will work with the PI to maximise traffic to the website at key points such as on publication of blog posts and interim and final reports. Reports in plain English geared towards policymaker, practitioner, and lay audiences will be available via the website, enabling beneficiaries to access up-to-date information about progress and findings.

Policymakers and practitioners will be engaged via workshops towards the end of the project, and it is anticipated that evidence generated by the research will begin to filter into policy and public debates over the medium to long term. This process will be enhanced by further research which will springboard from this project. A Horizon 2020 (or suitable similar funder) proposal will be developed in collaboration with civil society partners and international advisory board members during the course of this project. This will help to build on this project and will result in international impact based on but beyond the life of this research.
 
Description This research has produced qualitative and quantitative data on children's and families' perspectives on intra-household sharing. These form one qualitative dataset based on the ethnographic strand of the project, and quantitative data based on three survey waves. Analysis of this data is ongoing, and findings have been presented at conferences and at events for policy makers and practitioners as detailed elsewhere in this return. Headline findings include that a typology of family sharing can be developed drawing on both qualitative and quantitative data, and that this typology is useful in understanding variation in children's and parents' subjective well-being; that the approach to family sharing adopted according to this typology is not associated with family income; that family income, access to material resources, and approaches to family sharing are all associated with children's subjective well-being; and that children are active participants in securing and maintaining their material well-being and supporting their family's access to resources, often in ways that parents, peers and other adults may not be aware of.

Some specific findings also derive from the qualitative and quantitative datasets. Findings from the ethnographic strand of the research include that children and families are very concerned with issues of fairness, in terms of how their family resources are shared, and also in wider society; that 'family' should not be conflated with 'household', and children and parents can be important contributors to and consumers of resources from family (and non-family) beyond the household; that family sharing practices, for example around child care, are often invisible until brought into focus; and that children place a high value on having an appropriate level of autonomy in how and when they acquire and use resources. Findings from the survey strand of the research indicate that the association between income and child subjective well-being exists, but is complicated by mediating factors; that families in poverty behave similarly to other families in terms of how they report sharing resources, but the higher levels of constraint can make it much more difficult to meet everyone's needs; and that children make important contributions to the household economy, through (for example) contributing to housework, sourcing income and resources, and economising to save their families' money.
Exploitation Route The data will be archived and available to future researchers, and emerging findings also indicate that there is still much to learn in this area. Recommendations as to academic and societal developments have informed existing publications detailed elsewhere in this return, and will continue to be made as analyses are conducted. Findings have been and will continue to be used to develop policy and practice recommendations.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice,Other

URL https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/what-we-do/our-work/ending-child-poverty/fair-shares
 
Description The Fair Shares and Families (FSAF) report recommended a three-pronged approach to fulfilling the ultimate aim of improving the lives of children and families living in poverty. These were: changing the story on child poverty; changing how practitioners work with children and families in poverty; and changing policy so that children and families are adequately provided for. Impact generated by the project can be arranged around these three headings. - Changing the story This strand of work is concerned with changing popular and policy narratives around poverty, where research findings indicate that these are inaccurate. In particular, FASF findings challenge the popular positions that children are passive in the face of poverty and managing material resources; and that children and families in poverty think, act and are motivated differently to better-off families. The first of these indicates a need to include children, young people and families with experience of poverty in how child poverty is conceptualised and addressed. This has informed the follow-on project A Different Take (ADT), which was developed in collaboration with the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and Leeds City Council (LCC), who identified that findings from FASF highlighted the importance of centralising the voices of children, young people and families in poverty in understanding poverty and developing advocacy campaigns reflecting their perspectives and priorities. ADT remains in a very early stage, but represents a direct impact of the FASF research, and also has the potential to generate impact itself which will be monitored and incorporated into future drafts of this case study. LCC have embraced this model and incorporated the importance of listening to children and families with experience of poverty, and acting on priorities identified by them, into the work of the Child Poverty Impact Board (CPIB), which oversees the implementation of multi-sectoral anti-poverty work within Leeds. The second indicates a need to change how poverty is presented, shifting from a perspective that positions the individual in poverty as responsible for their own situation and seeks to change them, towards a perspective that positions societal structures and inequities as responsible for creating and perpetuating poverty, and strives to establish more equitable structures. This has informed the production of popular resources including an animation which provides a lay summary of the key findings, which has been widely disseminated including being sent to every Local Authority Director of Children's Services in England. FSAF findings have been presented at the meeting of the APPG on Well-being Economics and shared with a range of organisations, resulting in my being invited to sit on LCC's CPIB, and on CPAG's Policy Advisory Committee which informs the advocacy work of the organisation. I have used FASF findings to suggest developments to the overall approach taken to child poverty in the CPIB's work, including changing the language of 'Thriving: A child poverty strategy for Leeds' from an indicating individualised approach focusing on changing the behaviours and characters of those in poverty (e.g. the use of terminology such as 'promoting resilience'), to reflecting a rights-based approach as advocated in the project report, focusing on increasing provision and protecting people in poverty from the damaging effects of stigma. As a result of FSAF findings, LCC CPIB has also committed to consulting children, young people and families on the overall policy approach to poverty within Leeds, including an audit of the language used in discussions and publications about poverty. - Changing practice This strand of work is concerned with developing approaches to intervention which better support children and families in poverty. Relevant FSAF findings include details of the ways that people and organisations working with children can directly or indirectly exclude those in poverty; the importance of hearing children's own accounts since their experiences of poverty are often hidden from parents; and the importance of acknowledging children's creativity and agency in their efforts to survive and escape poverty. To achieve this change, I have worked with several organisations to develop new approaches to intervention. TCS have produced a practitioner briefing summarising the findings of the research and promoting the rights-based approach to working with children and families developed in the project report. This has been circulated to all practitioners within TCS, along with a link to a short animation based on the research findings. This animation has also been used as a scene-setting tool by LCC at a city-wide multi-sectoral event held to develop new approaches to addressing child poverty. I have used research findings in my role on LCC CPIB to propose changes to the ways in which anti-poverty activities are planned and delivered, and this has resulted in securing a commitment to incorporate children's, young people's and families' perspectives in the development and implementation of all anti-poverty activity; in a focus on stigma in work on 'poverty proofing' provision, to ensure that services and resources are provided in such a way as to minimise the changes of stigma and shame; and in a commitment to a rights-based approach which seeks to maximise access to and the accessibility of resources and support, and to challenge inaccurate and stigmatising narratives around poverty. - Changing policy This strand of work builds on the foundations set by the previous two, with the aim of achieving policy change to help ensure that all children and families have the resources they require for a decent standard of living. The individualising societal narratives detailed above are prevalent in policy rhetoric and reflected in policy approaches which seek to change the behaviours and motivations of people in poverty, rather than to increase the resources available to them. As also noted above, the FSAF research findings pose a strong challenge to these narratives. Findings from the research have been used to challenge current policy approaches via directly feeding into consultations and relevant APPG activity (see above) and through providing high-quality information to advocacy groups which can be used in their work. Submissions were made to the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology's consultation on adverse childhood experiences (POST-ACE), and the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty's consultation prior to his visit to the UK in 2018 (UN-SREP). Both responses are published on the respective consultation websites, and the POST-ACE submission was cited in the report prepared for Parliament as a result of the consultation. Findings have also informed the work and campaigns of advocacy groups. Evidence from FSAF was cited in the TCS submission to the UN-SREP, and has been detailed in the CPAG blog and policy journal. A blog written for Policy Focus on the FSAF research has received attention from multiple Special Advisors to the UN-SREP. The Child Rights Association for England have indicated that they intend to use FSAF findings in their State of Children's Rights 2018 report, which represents the 'alternative report' submitted by NGOs to the Committee on the Rights of the Child which is considered alongside the government's submission. Findings have also been used as part of wider campaigns by civil society and advocacy groups, including TCS's use of FSAF data to support a recent fundraising campaign.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Evidence presented to the APPG on Well-being Economics
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Member of Leeds City Council Child Poverty Impact Board
Geographic Reach Local/Municipal/Regional 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
Impact I was invited to sit on the Leeds City Council Child Poverty Impact Board, as an expert advisor. Drawing on evidence from the Fair Shares and Families project, I have helped to shape a range of activities and interventions which are in progress or being planned to ameliorate the impact of poverty on children and families. These projects include addressing the ways that poverty is framed in council documents (specifically, adopting a rights-based approach as proposed in the Fair Shares and Families project report) and removing references to 'resilience' and other concepts which individualise poverty and focus on changing people in poverty rather than the structures which create and perpetuate poverty; helping to design, implement and evaluate interventions including the provision of sanitary protection to women and girls unable to afford it, and addressing holiday hunger through providing food and activities throughout school breaks; and centralising the perspectives and priorities of children and families in poverty in the Council's approach through the development and implementation of multiple consultation methods which directly inform policy and practice.
URL https://democracy.leeds.gov.uk/documents/s182275/Thriving%20Child%20Poverty%20Strategy%20Cover%20Rep...
 
Description Participation in Child Poverty Action Group Policy Advisory Committee
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact I was invited to sit on the Child Poverty Action Group's (CPAG) Policy Advisory Committee to provide expertise on child poverty, how policy can best help children and families in poverty, and how CPAG can best advocate for these children and families. My involvement with CPAG includes leading a project which was developed based on my ESRC research and run in collaboration with CPAG and Leeds City Council, to foreground children's and families' own perspectives on the barriers posed by poverty and solutions to these through the development of consultation and co-production methods.
 
Description Production of practitioner guide
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The research was used to produce a briefing for practitioners written in collaboration with colleagues at The Children's Society. This detailed key project findings, their implications for practice, and specific ways in which practitioners could use the information in their work. This will be circulated to all practitioners within The Children's Society, and will also be used in other contexts as relevant - for example it has been shared with collaborators at Leeds City Council who may share it with their practitioners.
 
Description Submission to UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty ahead of his visit to the UK
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
URL https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Poverty/Pages/UKVisitSubmissions.aspx
 
Description Submission to consultation on adverse childhood experiences
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
Impact The submission (here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/science-and-technology-committee/evidencebased-early-years-intervention/written/75273.pdf), which recommended including a consideration of poverty as an adverse childhood experience, was cited in the government's report on this issue.
URL https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmsctech/506/50605.htm#footnote-395
 
Description CONICYT Post-Doctoral Fellowship for Dr Susana Cortes-Morales to continue her work on the project
Amount Ch$25,740,000 (CLP)
Organisation National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT) 
Sector Public
Country Chile
Start 01/2018 
End 12/2018
 
Description Leeds City Council Child Poverty Strategy
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation Leeds City Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2019
 
Title Fair Shares and Families Survey Strand: Wave 1 
Description This dataset contains responses from 1,010 parent-child pairs (with children aged 10-16), representative in terms of age, gender and socio-economic status of England. It contains data from the first of three waves. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This dataset will form the first of its kind in the England, focusing on child poverty and subjective well-being and informed by children's (aged 10-17) own perspectives and reports on these topics. It is also original in its investigation of children's and parents' perceptions of fairness in relation to intra-household allocation - both in relation to processes and outcomes. This is the first of three waves, which will be completed at six monthly intervals. 
 
Title Fair Shares and Families Survey Strand: Wave 2 
Description This is the second wave of the Fair Shares and Families survey, comprising data from 560 of the participants from wave 1, with replacements of similar age, gender and socio-economic status selected to replace those who dropped out after wave 1, to a total of 1,004 parent-child pairs. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This dataset will form the first of its kind in the England, focusing on child poverty and subjective well-being and informed by children's (aged 10-17) own perspectives and reports on these topics. It is also original in its investigation of children's and parents' perceptions of fairness in relation to intra-household allocation - both in relation to processes and outcomes. This is the first of three waves, which will be completed at six monthly intervals. 
 
Title Fair Shares and Families: Ethnographic database 
Description This database contains fieldnotes, interview transcripts and photographic data generated from a 9-month ethnographic study of 8 families in Leeds and York. The ethnographic research focused on children's and families' perspectives on their material needs, how they go about sharing resources and how they feel about the outcomes of intra-family resource sharing, and their perspectives on what constitutes (un)fairness in how families and society more widely shares resources. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This database forms the first of its kind, with data deriving from children's and families' own perspectives on how they share their resources and how they conceptualise (un)fairness in resource sharing. 
 
Title Fair Shares and Families: Wave 3 survey 
Description Data produced in the third wave of the project survey 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This data will be made public once it has been cleaned and organised. 
 
Description CPAG collaboration 
Organisation Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We are in the early stages of establishing a collaboration aimed at maximising the impact of the research conducted for 'Fair Shares and Families'. This work is in very early stages.
Collaborator Contribution Currently discussions and draft documents detailing proposals for collaboration.
Impact None as yet.
Start Year 2018
 
Description Leeds City Council Children's Services 
Organisation Leeds City Council
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I sit on the Leeds City Council Child Poverty Impact Board, providing expert advice on the development and implementation of Thriving: A Child Poverty Strategy for Leeds. As part of this work I am involved in overseeing the implementation of several strands of work, including centralising children's and families' voices in the development of the child poverty strategy, and overseeing projects aimed to address holiday hunger and period poverty.
Collaborator Contribution Leeds City Council have provided placements for MA students working on these projects, access to information and key personnel, funding, and resources in kind.
Impact See above and in other sections - there are several strands of work associated with this collaboration.
Start Year 2016
 
Description The Children's Society 
Organisation The Children's Society
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The research will inform publications and policy briefings for use by The Children's Society
Collaborator Contribution The Children's Society will provide support with recruitment, design, analysis and dissemination of findings to policy and practice audiences
Impact None as yet
Start Year 2016
 
Description Invited presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Invited presentation to academics at the University of New South Wales Social Policy Research Centre seminar series. The seminar was recorded and made available on YouTube (see below), where it has been viewed 33 times to date.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wrz-fR2Xemw
 
Description Policy and practice conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Keynote presentation at Cevea's (Danish think tank) annual conference for policy makers, practitioners and academics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://cevea.dk/aktiviteter/tidligere/130-ulighedens-topmode/2011-ulighedens-topmode-2017-om-bornef...
 
Description Policy maker and practitioner workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Contribution alongside colleagues from The Children's Society and ISER to a seminar on 'What Makes Children Unhappy?'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/what-makes-children-unhappy-new-research-findings-tickets-37868816650...
 
Description Public Policy Exchange event: Tackling the Root Causes of Child Poverty 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 20 practitioners and local government officials attended a Public Policy Exchange event titled 'Tackling the Root Causes of Child Poverty', which included a presentation detailing the background to and early findings from Fair Shares and Families. Delegates engaged in questions and discussion following the presentation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.publicpolicyexchange.co.uk/events/HC28-PPE