How COVID-19 crisis measures reveal the conflation between poverty and adversity

Morag C. Treanor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
135 Downloads (Pure)


The application of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in public policy and practice ignore the structural circumstances in which children and their families live; the majority of studies on ACEs do not take socioeconomic position into account. Poverty and ACEs are often conflated, which can lead to unintended consequences for children and families and for the implementation of policy and practice. Using some of the COVID-19 crisis response measures in Scotland, in particular the example of the hubs for ‘vulnerable’ children and receipt of free school meals (FSMs), this paper explores how poverty and adversity become conflated and how this can impede children's access to support and even to their legal entitlements. The sole criterion for eligibility to FSMs, outwith the universal entitlement for P1-P3s, is low income and the dignified response to an eligibility based exclusively on low income is to provide cash. Yet, many local authorities have imposed a nonmonetary approach to FSM eligibility, even when this has proved difficult, e.g. in sourcing food. By assuming that parents living in poverty will misspend monies meant for children they conflate poverty with adversity. The policy focus in Scotland should prioritise poverty, using a cash-first approach, and trust the majority of parents to prioritise their children. This would also free up resources to provide dedicated services to children who do in fact experience high levels of adversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)475-492
Number of pages18
JournalScottish Affairs
Issue number4
Early online date1 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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