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The effects of inequality on young people

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Published: Mon, 10 Apr 2017

In what ways is inequality detrimental to the life chances of children and young people? How can practitioners address inequalities in their work with children and young people?

Being discriminated against and suffering inequality (lack of equal treatment) can be detrimental to children and young people’s life chances, such as their education, qualification attainment and future employment. People can be discriminated against because of their age, religion, ethnicity, background, lifestyle and sexuality which can have a huge impact on their life depending on how these issues are addressed and how they are supported by their family, friends and practitioners. In this essay I am going to discuss how inequality can be detrimental to the life chances of children and young people, and how practitioners can help address these inequalities in their work. I will explore diversity, discrimination and the barriers which stop society being more inclusive. I will also explore the important role of practitioners and the support they are able to offer to those subject to discrimination.

As a practitioner working in Scotland you must abide by the Scottish Social Services Council’s (SSSC’s) Codes of Practice. “TheCodes of Practice for Social Service Workers describe the standards of professional conduct and practice required of social service workers as they go about their daily work.” (The Open University, 2013a). There are also four key capabilities in child care and protection that practitioners must follow: values and ethical practice, knowledge and understanding, effective communication and professional competence and confidence. By following these four key capabilities and abiding to the SSSC’s Codes of Practice, this allows practitioners to make the right decisions and work and communicate appropriately with children and young people. By doing this they are addressing inequalities by using their professional values, and not allowing their personal views and beliefs to overshadow what is right.

Diversity is a distinctive feature of contemporary life in Scotland. “The term ‘diversity’ explains the ways in which people as individuals and as members of groups differ from each other; and that there is a variety of differences. It is evident that today a range of differences exist in the UK” (The Open University, 2013b). These differences range from people’s social class, family dynamics and values and beliefs. These differences can cause discrimination however diversity should be celebrated rather than being seen as negative. Children, young people and families whose lives are affected by discrimination and inequality need to be supported. Practitioners must have a social ecological perspective which is “a way of working with individual children, young people and families that keeps them at the centre but applies knowledge and understanding of the bigger picture when trying to understand their lives.” (The Open University, 2013c). Having this perspective helps practitioners address inequalities in their work with children and young people and offer the appropriate supports.

There are barriers stopping society from being more inclusive, such as the attitudes of people towards others who are seen as ‘not normal’, however “Social attitudes and legislation have successfully tackled discrimination and have, arguably, created a more inclusive society in the UK.” (The Open University, 2013d). Although there are barriers which stop society being more inclusive it has been argued that over the past 50 years in the UK diversity has developed, alongside increasing liberal ideas about how individuals and families arrange their lives, therefore factors such as age, social class, gender, disability, and religion should not be barriers to people’s life chances. Although diversity has developed it is still affecting people’s lives. As seen on the module website (The Open University, 2013e), a young person discusses her own personal experience of suffering racism and how this affected her life, which could possibly be detrimental to her life chances. Although the perpetrator was charged by the Police, the young person’s self-esteem has suffered and she is in constant fear of being at risk of harm while out in the community. The young person also speaks about not receiving appropriate support from her family nor a practitioner, however if the young person had received the appropriate supports after the incident this could have had a positive impact on her and helped alleviate the young person’s fears. This highlights how important the role of a practitioner is in order to address inequalities in their work with children and young people.

“Sociological theories suggest that socialisation is the process by which we learn from the society into which we are born” (The Open University, 2013f). Initially for most people socialisation takes place within the family as children and young people will adopt the views and beliefs of their parents. There are other social structures which provide socialisation and may interfere or change a person’s opinions such as school, the media and peer groups. Thomson’s PCS Model analyses socialisation and the inequalities that are raised within it. Thomson’s model suggests that people have their own Personal views or beliefs which are interlinked with theCulturalvalues that exist in a person’s community or belief system. This is also interlinked on a Structural level which includes society as a whole such as tabloids, institutions and governments.

Children and young people who are looked after and accommodated can suffer inequality as their education may be influenced by their socio-economic background. Although the Guidance to the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 states that “Children who are looked after should have the same educational opportunities as all other children for education, including further and higher education, and access to other opportunities for development.” (The Open University, 2013g), this is not the reality of it. Children and young people who are accommodated tend to be under a great deal of stress due to their circumstances. They might be missing their family, they may have to move school, they may not live as close to their friends and they may have uncertainties about their future. Using Thomson’s PCS model, society has their own personal views and cultural values of children and young people who are in care such as assuming they are badly behaved or that they deserve to be in care. As well as the children/young people trying to deal with the views/beliefs of these people and the community as a whole, they can also be judged on a structural level and are trying to cope with how the media view them. This negative perception of children and young people in care is a form of discrimination and could be detrimental to their life chances due to the effect it can have on their mood, social life and learning ability.

“‘Biological citizenship’ refers to the attempts by parents of children with disabilities to engage in activism and community participation to increase the citizenship rights of their children through links with groups such as Scope, Mencap and ENABLE Scotland.” (The Open University, 2013h). As discussed in Goodley and Runswick-Cole, 2010, p. 73-75, Gayle and Shelley are both mothers of children who are affected by a disability and although they have had very different experiences, they both resorted to using groups as a form of support. Gayle’s son Simon is eleven years old and has been diagnosed with asbergers, and Shelley’s daughter Chloe who is sixteen years old has been diagnosed with a rare genetic syndrome. Gayle found that Simon’s label allowed her to access support whereas Shelley found Chloe’s label as ‘useless’ because there were no supports that could be offered to her. Eventually both parents turned to ‘real’ parent support groups where biological citizenship is acted out. They found these groups positive overall and were able to relate to other parents who had similar experiences, however Shelley felt that “tensions could arise within the parents group, particularly when it came to making choices about mainstream or special provision” (Goodley and Runswick-Cole, 2010, p. 78). When discrimination affects a child or young person’s life chances it ultimately affects their parents/family, as it did Gayle and Shelley who felt the need to join a group to gain support and understanding. If Gayle and Shelley had received the appropriate support from a practitioner they may have felt that a group was unnecessary.

In conclusion, inequality can be detrimental to the life chances of children and young people, affecting their social lives and their education. They could be discriminated against because of their age, religion, sexuality, gender or background and this could have an impact on their life as a whole. When children and young people are discriminated against this can also have an effect on their families, for example Gayle and Shelley who required the support of parent support groups. Practitioners can help address these inequalities through their work by abiding by the SSSC’s Codes of Practice and following the four key capabilities. By doing this it helps them to make the right decisions and work and communicate appropriately with children and young people to support them through discrimination.

References

The Open University (2013a) ‘Section 1.4: The module areas of study’ K229 Learning Guide 1 [Online]. Available at www.learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=350865&section=5 (Accessed 12 November 2013).

The Open University (2013b) ‘Section 2.1: Families, diversity and social change’ K229 Learning Guide 2 [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=350871&section=2 (Accessed 12 November 2013).

The Open University (2013c) ‘Glossary’ K229 Resources and Forums [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/glossary/showentry.php?concept=&courseid=202246&eid=116725&displayformat=dictionary (Accessed 12 November 2013).

The Open University (2013d) ‘Section 2.2: Barriers to a more inclusive society’ K229 Learning Guide 2 [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=350871&section=3 (Accessed 12 November 2013).

The Open University (2013e) ‘Section 2.3: The impact of discrimination and inequality’ K229 Learning Guide 2 [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=350871&section=4 (Accessed 12 November 2013).

The Open University (2013f) ‘Glossary’ K229 Resources and Forums [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/glossary/showentry.php?courseid=202246&eid=116715&displayformat=dictionary (Accessed 12 November 2013).

The Open University (2013g) ‘Section 2.5: Addressing discrimination and inequality’ K229 Learning Guide 2 [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=350871&section=6 (Accessed 12 November 2013).

The Open University (2013h) ‘Section 2.5: Addressing discrimination and inequality’ K229 Learning Guide 2 [Online]. Available at https://learn2.open.ac.uk/mod/oucontent/view.php?id=350871&section=6 (Accessed 12 November 2013).

Goodley, D. and Runswick-Cole, K., (2010) Working with Children and Young People: Co-constructing Practice, ‘Disabled children, their parents and their experiences with practitioners’.

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