Monday, 17 March 2008

Times: Shannon Matthews is the new face of poverty

[...] Poverty has a new face now, and it’s called Shannon Matthews. What her sad little story has destroyed, possibly for ever, is the convenient middle-class myth of coherent, material poverty. Instead, it has revealed that what devastates the lives of modern children is something altogether much worse – inner poverty; poverty of the soul.

Although clothed and fed, often with a parent or a stepparent in work, children in Shannon’s world have to exist in a state of pervasive, low-level psychological chaos that is beyond the remedy of any social worker. There are no state palliatives for emotional neglect; or an endemic lack of emotional stability. There is absolutely no cure for the horrors of growing up with adults who exist in a state of permanent volatility.

In a world such as Shannon’s, there are no certainties other than the fact that there are no certainties.

These children are not like our children. Their parents are not adults we would recognise as adults. The children do not come home from school to someone to ask them how their day was. Many are denied anything but fleeting attention, interest and stimulation.

Many, furthermore, spend their lives trying to be invisible in order to cope with the adults in the house – hostile boyfriends; stressed, angry mothers. Any children’s charity will tell you that the biggest threat to children comes from violent boyfriends and lovers; from mothers, in other words, who prioritise their own relationships over their children.

Add to this households where drink and drug abuse by adults is a common factor, and you begin to see how scary and unstable some children’s lives are. Read more
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