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Genetics of poverty

Sociological research in Tomaszow


Genetics of poverty


Almost half of the young citizens of Tomaszow declare that their social position is not higher than that of their parents. Every fifth one has declared the feeling of social degradation and every fourth - of stagnation. Simultaneously, activities undertaken for the benefit of children living in hard conditions are dispersed, temporary, uncoordinated and fragmentary.


These are the conclusions of the investigations conducted by the  team of sociologists from Lodz University in Tomaszow. The research concerned the ways of preventing inheritance of social inequalities. The research team from the Institute of Sociology UL conducted four discussion panels with experts i.e. various social policy actors from Tomaszow. These were town councilors, directors of "social" departments in the municipality office, heads of schools and the labour office, social workers, school educators, probation officers, representatives of non-governmental organizations, priests etc. Over 700 persons aged 24-29 were interviewed, out of whom almost 40 were selected for further in-depth interview about their childhood, school career, assistance offered by various town institutions, future plans etc.

Interviews confirmed already at the very beginning the fact of young people's massive exodus from the town. - Of 1750 persons sampled for the study, over a half was unavailable. They left the town for a time period or for good - says prof. Ewa Rokicka. Those interviewed tended to evaluate their situation mainly from a materialistic perspective. Despite their "short work biographies" the majority have experienced at least 3-month unemployment period, lack of work stability, illegal jobs, bad working conditions (long hours, delayed or unpaid remuneration, drastically low pay etc.). - The majority of the respondents did not perceive any influence of the school, labour office or social welfare on the course of their lives. Yet, in case of those who originated from low-status families, support from public institutions and individual people did contribute to breaking spiral of poverty. GOING IN FOR SPORT was mentioned by the respondents as particularly significant, too.

The discussions with experts allowed to make a conclusion that social workers and other so-called "frontliners" are quite aware of the emergence of poverty pockets on the territory of Tomaszow - inhabited by jobless, low-qualified, poorly educated, often addicted to alcohol and suffering form various disabilities population. Poverty is accompanied there by bad housing conditions, poor health, lack of proper hygiene and diet. Children brought up in such environment do not have their basic needs satisfied. They lack positive models of promotion and are hardly ever motivated to hard work at school. Instead they are forced to doing casual jobs and petty theft. They witnesses and they become victims of violence. - Yet, the fact that poverty has influence on the functioning of the whole town, both now and in the future, is hardly realised. The phenomenon of poverty inheritance from generation to generation  is not an object of in-depth reflection by social policy actors here in Tomaszow - states prof. Rokicka. - The focus on current matters prevails, connected with the necessity to provide temporary relief- with insufficient resources - to people in need.

As prof. Jolanta Grotowska-Leder proposed, the priority in designing future activities should be the answer to the question: What to do to prevent poor children form being poor adults? Dr Piotr Szukalski underlined that the so-called early preventive measures should be directed to the group of children below 7 years old - and that - according to him - is now missing. During the  designing of local social policy strategy three points must be considered: improving coordination of all current initiatives and ensuring that the planned ones are effectively coordinated, and putting emphasis on professional trainings for social workers and volunteers - recommends prof. Rokicka on behalf of the team of sociologists.

Research project PROFIT was commissioned by the European Commission. It was carried out in Great Britain, Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania, Germany, Poland and Italy. Tomaszow was one of the eight European cities of medium size selected for the study. - European Union lacks knowledge on how social policy is realised on the lower administrative level - explains prof. Wielis?awa Warzywoda-Kruszynska, Director of the Institute of Sociology UL, project's lead coordinator. - The results of the research and conclusions are going to be subject for discussed, with an aim to building local partnerships for counteracting poverty and social inequalities inheritance. The project was launched on 1 May 2004 and will end on 30 April 2007. The conference summerising the conclusions worked out in all towns under study will be held on 12 and 13 April in Spala.


*The article published in Tomaszow Weekly News Directory; available in Polish at: