TCD Children’s Research Centre and Combat Poverty Host a Conference on Children Living with Poverty and Disadvantage

Posted on: 22 November 2006

Young people living in disadvantaged areas should be given a voice and the opportunity to participate in the regeneration of their communities, according to a new study funded by the Trinity College’s Children’s Research Centre and Combat Poverty Agency. The research found that children want to be able to spend time ‘hanging around’ with their friends safely and without harassment, but they also want other outlets and often have no alternative than to hang around on the streets.

The study investigated the free time and leisure needs of 80 young people aged 12 to 18 years living in four disadvantaged areas. It found that many young people felt ignored and excluded by politicians, resident associations and community development committees and that the regeneration of their areas resulted in instances of them being barred or excluded from using privately owned commercial leisure complexes.

The findings of the study, along with other research on child poverty, were discussed at a special one-day conference entitled ‘Children Living with Poverty and Disadvantage: New Knowledge, New Perspectives’ jointly hosted by the Combat Poverty Agency and the TCD Children’s Research Centre at Croke Park on November 22 last.

The purpose of the event was to draw together research on child poverty and present new insights to inform government policy on the issue. The government has a stated policy objective to end child poverty in Ireland, where one in ten children lives in consistent poverty. Leading international experts on child poverty, including Professor Jonathon Bradshaw from the University of York and Dr. Tess Ridge from the University of Bath spoke at the conference and the opening address was delivered by the Minister for Children, Brian Lenihan TD.

Attendees at the conference also got an insight into another new study by the Children’s Research Centre which shows how even young children are attuned to both the positive and negative characteristics of their neighbourhoods. Through the medium of photography, children expressed their own feelings and concerns about living in an area where there is crime, litter and vandalism.

“Both research studies show how the communities, neighbourhoods and social spaces in which young people live influence how they perceive their place in society, their life choices and their future. They highlight the sense of marginalisation and isolation experienced by some young people, which is often due to a negative image of their social environment. The challenge is to ensure that policy makers and community groups understand the need to develop a more holistic approach to addressing free time and leisure needs in disadvantaged communities,” said Helen Johnston, Director of the Combat Poverty Agency.

“We need to understand how children and young people experience poverty and disadvantage and to take their experience and their viewpoints into account when planning interventions,” said TCD Professor Sheila Greene, Director of the Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College. “The study on young people’s free time and leisure clearly reveals that young people want to participate in shaping the development of their local area.”

The study on young people’s free time and leisure needs recommends that direct consultation with young people should be a priority when designing or planning any service or leisure facility for young people. It recommends the need to ensure that the provision of free-time and leisure facilities are not generic but based on the individual needs of communities. The establishment of community-owned leisure and recreational amenities and designated ‘youth areas’ within local communities are also recommended.

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Professor Sheila Greene, Director, Children’s Research Centre Trinity College (r) with Ms Helen Johnston, Director, Combat Poverty Agency(l) and the Minister for Children Brian Lenihan during the Combat Poverty Agency’s conference ‘Children Living with Poverty and Disadvantage: New Knowledge, New Perspectives’ at Croke Park, hosted in conjunction with TCD’s Children’s Research Centre.