|Professor Margaret Ledwith. Image courtesy University of Cumbria|
Most people think the distribution of wealth in the UK is far more equal than it actually is. In fact, for over 30 years the gap between rich and poor has widened alarmingly, and shows no sign of easing. Within these unacceptable levels of inequality, children are the highest group at risk of poverty.
Community development, action research and human flourishing: The cost of poor children on 26th February (admission free but registration requested via the web link) is the third in a series of public lectures at the University of Cumbria, in which Emeritus Professor Margaret Ledwith will discuss why little has been effective in reducing this high risk to children, as well as the high cost to society as a whole.
Child poverty levels in the UK accelerated in the period 1979-1997 from one in every ten children to one in three. Despite the Child Poverty Act, 2010, which enshrined in law a commitment to end child poverty by 2020, the harsh reality is that, as inequalities rise, child poverty levels in the UK are expected to increase, not decrease.
“Community development, my area of work, is a practice committed to social justice and environmental sustainability," explains Professor Ledwith, who lives in Lancaster, "yet we find ourselves in political times that face us with crises of both.
“My talk focuses on child poverty as a serious social justice concern within the context of our political times. I draw critical connections suggesting that child poverty is a choice rather than a necessity.
“These ideas are relevant to those with a general interest in child poverty or anyone involved in a practice that claims a social justice commitment, from teaching to health promotion to social work.
“My intention is to offer a critical focus that cuts through the pathological blaming of victims of structural disadvantage, so prevalent in today’s society, to present altered perceptions and, therefore, alternative choices.”
Professor Ledwith’s ideas on this subject are contained in her latest book, Community Development Theory in Action, to be published by Policy Press later this year. It's described as a handbook for busy grassroots practitioners – designed to fit into a handy pocket as a useful everyday reference.
Beyond that, a further book has been commissioned building on the relevance of her work to practitioners in health, housing, teaching, social work as well and youth and community development, and promises to be her lifework.
In addition to being Emeritus Professor of Community Development and Social Justice at the University of Cumbria, Margaret Ledwith is also a coordinator of the international Collaborative Action Research Network.
For many years, she was a grassroots community worker, and it was this experience of working with marginalised communities that forged the foundation of a lifetime commitment to social justice.
Her first book, Participation in Transformation, published in 1997, was based on research undertaken with Hattersley people and became a key text for community development. Her second book, also published in and Indian edition, Community Development: A Critical Approach, was awarded ‘Bestselling title of all time’ by Policy Press in 2009, and Margaret was given a ‘Lifetime achievement award’. A fully revised second edition was published in 2011, and is popular not only in the UK, but in many other countries, from Norway to Nepal.
Her third book, Participatory Practice: Community-based Action for Transformative Change, written in partnership with Professor Jane Springett, was published in November 2009.
• Community development, action research and human flourishing: The cost of poor children 26th February, University of Cumbria Lancaster campus (admission free but registration requested via the web link). The lecture will be relayed live to the Univeristy's Fusehill Street campus in Carlisle.
• Members of the public are welcome to attend these free lectures; more information and booking details can be found on the university website www.cumbria.ac.uk/publiclectures
• Policy Press: www.policypress.co.uk