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  • Author or Editor: Anne Power x
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Bringing up children in disadvantaged neighbourhoods
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Seen through the eyes of parents, mainly mothers, “City survivors” tells the eye-opening story of what it is like to bring up children in troubled city neighbourhoods. The book provides a unique insider view on the impact of neighbourhood conditions on family life and explores the prospects for families from the point of view of equality, integration, schools, work, community, regeneration and public services.

“City Survivors” is based on yearly visits over seven years to two hundred families living in four highly disadvantaged city neighbourhoods, two in East London and two in Northern inner and outer city areas. Twenty four families, six from each area, explain over time from the inside, how neighbourhoods in and of themselves directly affect family survival. These twenty four stories convey powerful messages from parents about the problems they want tackled, and the things that would help them. The main themes explored in the book are neighbourhood, community, family, parenting, incomes and locals, the need for civic intervention.

The book offers original and in-depth, qualitative evidence in a readable and accessible form that will be invaluable to policy-makers, practitioners, university students, academics and general readers interested in the future of families in cities.

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This chapter explores communities within neighbourhoods — the smaller-scale, more informal social links that make life more secure and less threatening for families. It observes that the four families in this chapter find some community support around them and they all believe that community spirit is vital for family survival. Four mothers are interviewed who have had terrible experiences — divorce, domestic violence, demolition, crime — that make them ask whether social conditions, council action, and cities themselves may combine to destroy a sense of community within neighbourhoods, thereby threatening the survival of families in cities. It observes that the London families seem to have a tougher time identifying with their community than their Northern counterparts, and one London family left the area during the course of the study.

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This chapter looks at neighbourhoods as the basic building blocks of all cities and towns. It observes that there are many serious problems and a general atmosphere of decay and decline, but there are also many promising changes and historic assets. It notes that the two Northern families are very committed to their areas, one as a ‘gentrifier’, who chooses to live in a diverse inner-city area, the other as a long-standing ‘born n bred’ old-guard resident. It observes that the London families cope with a much tougher environment, torn between strong local ties and the inescapable pressures to get out. It further observes that the neighbourhoods are difficult places for families, but the families find many things to defend, many positive assets they like.

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This chapter describes the study of how families live in troubled city neighbourhoods in the North of England and East London. It notes that this book is based on yearly visits over seven years to 200 families in four highly disadvantaged city neighbourhoods in England, 100 in East London, and 100 in Northern- and outer-city areas. It notes that these families are struggling with much harsher neighbourhood conditions than most people can imagine and this directly affects the families’ ability to cope. It further notes that twenty-four families from four low-income, unpopular neighbourhoods, six from each area, explain over time, from the inside, how neighbourhoods in and of themselves directly affect family survival. It explains that the book is organised around six main themes reflecting layers of local family life that emerged from difficult families’s stories — the neighbourhood, the community, the family, parenting, ‘incomers’, and civic intervention.

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This chapter explores the gap between what families need and how city structures support their inhabitants. It notes that in theory at least, city governments try to equalise conditions on the grounds of fairness and cohesion. It observes that low-income families in return provide many essential services to the city, as restaurant workers, drivers, school assistants, IT and childcare workers, cleaners, security assistants, and carers of every kind, all vital functions within the city. It explains that the four families in this chapter argue the overriding case for community-level involvement to shape interventions more closely to family survival. It further explains that external interventions are often insensitive to community networks and the informal supports they provide, whereas community-level activity values the normally uncounted benefits of families in city neighbourhoods.

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This chapter looks at the active role parents play in teaching their children to reach out from the family towards the wider world in order to survive. It notes that this is the essence of all parental responsibility. It observes that in these neighbourhoods, parenting responds to a fear of surrounding dangers that constrains the essential maturing and distancing process of growing up. It notes that parents invest heavily in protecting their children from terrifying threats and actual dangers. It observes that the parenting experience combines all the problems of neighbourhoods, communities, and families in one intense activity — bringing up children in troubled areas. It further observes that the risk of their own children getting involved directly, and being influenced indirectly by happenings around them, is both real and undermining to parents.

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This chapter describes families from a minority ethnic background that moved into these neighbourhoods and the barriers they faced in trying to integrate their families into the community. It notes that the four families in this chapter come from very different backgrounds — South America, the Middle East, East Africa, and India. It observes that all four mothers hanker after the more supportive, community-oriented environment they knew as children. It further observes that the biggest threat they encounter is not hostility from the existing community, but the instability and uncertainties of the neighbourhoods where they live.

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This chapter explores family life, which is the foundation of all social life and therefore of our ability to survive in communities and neighbourhoods. It observes that the four families in this chapter experience strong pressures from surrounding problems. It notes that each mother, in different ways, has her share of family troubles as well, and helping their children grow up happily is the major preoccupation of the mothers. It also shows how small a role most fathers play in directly caring for the children and family care, in the main, is a role most mothers accept unquestioningly. It observes that working mothers feel torn between their children’s need for their time and their need for more money. It notes that one of the London families moved away during the course of the study and a Northern mother desperately wanted to do the same.

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This chapter draws together evidence from the families in the study that: a) disadvantaged neighbourhoods make family life difficult; b) in order to survive families build local community links; c) that families make cities more humane; and d) cities work better when they support family life. It notes that families generate much of the social capital on which society as a whole flourishes. It also explores the dynamics of urban neighbourhoods from the perspective of parents and poses questions concerning the impact of neighbourhood conditions on family life, the issue of unpopular areas to work for families with children, strengthening community ties, and forms of interventions to counter the uncontrollable pressure on families of extremely rapid change.

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This chapter examines evidence to support a neighbourhood focus for delivering social policy. It presents some findings on how neighbourhood renewal in practice addresses the problems of integration and urban recovery. The central questions are: Why does the neighbourhood affect social conditions? What is the evidence of progress in neighbourhood renewal? Are more mixed urban communities likely to emerge through neighbourhood renewal? The chapter draws on several long-run studies about low-income areas and their prospects. The Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion at the London School of Economics and Political Science has been tracking 12 highly disadvantaged areas, covering the different representative types of deprived neighbourhoods in England for the last eight years. The Neighbourhood Renewal Unit is trying to help in the recovery of up to 3,000 such areas.

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