Graham Whitham

Working title

Parental employment and child poverty in deprived communities in the UK


Sept 2013 – Sept 2016




Dr Kingsley Purdam

About the PhD 

Despite successes in reducing the number of children classed as living in absolute and relative poverty in the years up to 2010, the UK continues to experience stubbornly high levels of child poverty relative to some other developed nations. Recent trends in child poverty are expected to go into reverse over the coming years with relative child poverty projected to increase by over 1 million children by 2020 largely as a result of cuts to social security payments (out-of-work benefits and tax credits).

Whilst recent national and local strategic approaches to reducing child poverty have cited parental employment as a key route out of poverty for low-income families the extent to which work lifts families out of poverty is limited. Efforts to reduce child poverty in the UK by increasing rates of parental employment have been hampered by the prevalence of low-paid work, longstanding weaknesses in some local economies and the existence of parental barriers to employment such as high childcare costs, low skills and a lack of suitable employment opportunities.

Recent discourse about child poverty at a national government level has centred around how child poverty should be measured, the importance of children’s development during the early years of their life and the need for significant social security reforms.

On the latter, government policy is concerned with improving work incentives (or ‘making work pay’), that is improving the financial benefits of being in work and making those financial benefits appear clearer to benefit claimants (reducing complexity). A large emphasis, therefore, is being placed on welfare reforms having a significant impact on the behaviour of claimants.

The PhD will explore the extent to which increasing parental employment can help reduce child poverty.


Graham has worked for Save the Children since 2009 as a policy advisor on UK child poverty. In this role his main areas of interest have been social security reform, parental experiences in the labour market and financial strain and hardship amongst low-income families. Graham completed an MA in Applied Social Research Methods at The University of Manchester in 2006 and a BA in Politics at the University of Liverpool in 2002.

Save the Children reports include:

  • It shouldn’t happen here: child poverty in 2012, based on qualitative findings from surveys of 5000 parents and 1500 children. Surveys designed and commissioned by Save the Children (published in September 2012).
  • The importance of income in measuring and tackling child poverty (published in June 2012).
  • Ensuring Universal Credit supports working mums, based on modelling of the impact of welfare reform on work incentives (published in March 2012).
  • Severe child poverty: nationally and locally, based on findings from analysis of the Household Below Average Income Dataset (published in February 2012).

Formal presentations

  • Measuring child poverty - joint Save the Children and Child Poverty Unit event (Belfast, 7th February 2013).
  • Work incentives under universal credit – to London anti-poverty campaigners and stakeholders at a joint 4in10, Child Poverty Action Group and Z2K event (London, 23rd November 2012).
  • Using research in the fight against child poverty – to academics, PhD students and researchers at Methods Fair 2012 (University of Manchester, 10th October 2012).

Research advisory groups

  • Disabled Children, Rights and Poverty - Office of the Children's Commissioner for England/University of Central Lancashire (September 2012 to September 2013).
  • Child and Working-Age Poverty from 2010 to 2020 - Institute for Fiscal Studies/Joseph Rowntree Foundation (March to December 2011

Contact details

Office: G45, Humanities Bridgeford Street