This project aims to better understand the different ways that young people experience poverty and other forms of social disadvantage. Its focus is on finding out more about how young people in NSW between the ages of 12 and 16 (in school years 7-10) perceive and experience material deprivation (‘missing out’) and social exclusion (‘being left out’). The approach will draw on information provided by young people themselves, about what things they agree everyone should have – things like some pocket money each week to spend on yourself, and an annual holiday with family. These kinds of studies are often conducted on adults, so this is the first time that the approach has been applied to young people themselves in Australia. The results will provide policy makers with better information about the kinds of problems that young people encounter so that they can design better policy responses.
Gill Main (University of Leeds); Anne Hampshire (The Smith Family); Robyn Bale (NSW Department of Education); Ruth Habgood (NSW Advocate for Children and Young People)
The main focus of the project is to find out more about how young people in NSW between the ages of 12 and 16 (in school years 7-10) perceive and experience material deprivation (‘missing out’) and social exclusion (‘being left out’). It will develop new ways of identifying which young people experience these problems by drawing on information provided by young people themselves, about what things most young people agree everyone should have – things like some pocket money each week to spend on yourself, and an annual holiday with family. The information collected will be provided by young people themselves, so that they will be the judges of what it means to be missing out on basic necessities or essential items, or being left out of basic activities. Although studies of this kind are often conducted on adults, this is the first time that the approach has been applied to young people themselves in Australia.
The project identifies poverty as a situation where people do not have enough income to achieve a minimum standard of living. This involves asking young people which items they think that everyone like them needs in order to live a decent life in Australia today. What does this involve in terms of having access to basic items and being able to take part in essential social activities? Only those items and activities that at least 50% of all young people think are essential are included and those who do not have these items or take part in these activities are defined as deprived or excluded. Using this approach means that young people themselves have a say in how their disadvantage status is identified, measured and assessed.
The project will involve a sample of young people studying in years 7-10 in NSW Government schools and some young people who are accessing services by The Smith Family.
The research is based at the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW and is being led by Professor Peter Saunders, who has been conducting research on different aspects of poverty for over three decades.
This study is important because it is the first study in Australia that adopts a child-centred view of what constitutes an acceptable minimum standard of living for young people. In applying a living standards approach to young people in a way that embodies their own views, the findings will impact directly on how their well-being is understood, and how it can be improved in ways that reflect their views and experiences – not only those who are themselves doing it tough, but all young people. The research will highlight the factors that are associated with the experience of different forms of social disadvantage and explore how it affects young people’s well-being, their lifestyle and aspirations, and how they relate to their friends and peers, family members, the schooling system, their local neighbourhood and the wider community.
The findings will contribute new understandings and perspectives to the growing interest in children’s experiences of poverty. The evidence can assist schools and services to deliver what children and young people need in ways that they will use and benefit from.
There are two main components to the study.
- Focus Groups - the first part of the study involves running focus groups with students in years 7-10 in a sample of NSW Government schools and with young people who are accessing some of the services provided by The Smith Family. These focus groups will explore what items and activities young people think are necessary to live ‘a normal kind (or decent) life’ – things that all young people should have access to. The output will inform the questions that will be asked to a much larger sample of young people in the second stage of the project.
- Survey - the centrepiece of the second stage of the research will be a large survey of the circumstances and views of young people conducted through schools and services for young people. These surveys will be conducted with the assistance of the NSW Department of Education and Communities and The Smith Family. The survey questionnaire will ask young people about the items they have, and – if they don’t have certain items – it will ask whether or not they would like to have them. It will also ask young people about their overall well-being and life satisfaction, including asking about some basic information about themselves, their family and friends, their neighbourhood and social networks. The information collected in the survey will then be examined in detail by the Research Team, who will use it to compare patterns of material deprivation (who is missing out on basic items) and social exclusion (who is prevented from participating economically and socially) and develop summary indicators of deprivation and exclusion.
The final stage of the project will involve examining the policy and practice implications of the findings and disseminating the results widely to other researchers and to potential users of the findings. The project report will address what forms of social disadvantage are most common, which groups are most affected and what are the consequences for young people – now and into the future. These insights and recommendations will be the subject of detailed discussion at a stakeholder workshop that will bring together leading NSW researchers and policy makers with expertise and interest in identifying social disadvantage and its impacts. Young people will also be invited to attend and participate in the workshop. Workshop participants will critically assess the approach and interpretation of the results and advise on how best to disseminate the findings and identify potential uses and users.