‘Cumbria uniquely unequal’ for children, says inequality expert

‘Cumbria uniquely unequal’ for children, says inequality expert

An inequalities campaigner is set to lift the lid on the unique social factors in Cumbria that play a surprisingly significant part in determining the social outcomes of children in the county. 

Professor Kaz Stuart, an inequalities research expert at the University of Cumbria, aims to dispel the myth that children all have equal opportunity and where they end up in society is a combination of ‘luck’ and freewill.

Her first public lecture as professor, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor - Social Determinants of Child Outcomes, will explore some well-known and lesser-known influences on the outcomes of children and young people and their interdependent relationships. 

However, Kaz is quick to point out that despite obvious inequalities in society including the well-documented and widening gap between the country’s richest and poorest, something can be done about it. 

Her talk will use examples of her innovative research to illustrate practical ways to achieve alternative, positive outcomes for children.

She will challenge the public audience to adopt ten simple attitudinal changes that have potential for profound social change.

Kaz  said: “The counting game ‘tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor’ suggests to children that their future destiny is down to chance but it’s evident from my research is that this assumption just simply isn’t true. 

Cumbria has some deep-seated social challenges that mark it out as uniquely unequal compared to the rest of the country and for that reason, it’s very hard for a disadvantaged child here to lift themselves out of their situation alone.

“That’s why we need to scrutinise our perceptions of fairness and realise we don’t have to accept the status-quo, accepting instead that we have the power to enact significant change just by the way we think about things.” 

Cumbria has some unique factors at play that mark it out as significantly more unequal than some other parts of the UK. 

The Cumbria Community Foundation’s publication Cumbria Revealed, highlighted; 1 in 8 households in Cumbria have less than £10k income, 1 in 10 households live in fuel poverty, 11,700 Cumbrian children live in poverty, youth unemployment is up to five times the national average in some wards and child mental health issues are above the national average.

Added to this, deprivation on west coast, poor rural transport connectivity to access vital services, life expectancy in North of the country is 18 years less than the South and according to a social mobility index*, Carlisle is a cold spot. 

All these factors lead to stark inequality, which is felt right across the county.  

In her role as director for the Centre for Research in Health and Society, part of the university's newly established Institute of Health, she’s pitching for grants to the tune of £400k to fund applied research to address these local issues and recruiting researchers specifically for the task. 

She’s also one half of a duo that instigated the Carlisle Inequality Society - a grass roots organisation set up to tackle inequality locally - which recently hosted a stand in Carlisle City Centre to mark Inequality Awareness Day.

Kaz and Adrienne Gill, of the One World Centre in Carlisle, believe that whilresearch can shine a light on key issues, it is people in communities that are key to making such changes reality.  

The Carlisle Equality Group aims to work with people, practitioners, leaders, managers, and policy makers to effect change locally.

Kaz’s lecture, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor - Social Determinants of Child Outcomes is the first in a series of professorial lectures set to take place in early 2020. 

The series showcases the research specialisms of the university's recently appointed professors and gives them public recognition for achieving academic distinction and reputation in their chosen field.

Kaz's lecture will take place at the university's Fusehill Street campus, Carlisle on Monday 27 January from 4.30pm. Tickets can be reserved by contacting rsvpevents@cumbria.ac.uk.