In 2007, UNICEF’s Report Card 7 ’ An overview of child well-being in rich countries’, established that in comparison to 20 other OECD countries, including much poorer ones, the UK scored low in terms of child well-being and found that families found greater pressures on their time and money.
Five years on, media reports continue to document this struggle which has contributed to the charity Save the Children launching a campaign to help the poorest families. In the context of the ongoing recession, Save the Children report that UK children are being disproportionately affected with some being deprived of regular hot meals and basic needs such as new shoes and clothing.
In 2007, UNICEF reported a close relationship between well-being, materialism and inequality in the countries in focus – Spain, Sweden and the UK. Through subjective measures of well-being, it was identified that across all countries children wanted time with their parents, good relationships with friends and stimulating things to do. Yet in the UK the study revealed that parents struggled to find time to be with their children and the UNICEF Report Card 9, published 3 years later, stated that this ongoing issue was in many cases due to low wages causing parents to work two jobs or long hours.
The Report Card 9 also stated that the UK has one of the greatest gaps in terms of material well-being between the poorest children and the rest of the child population. Furthermore, the UK’s levels of income poverty further push disadvantaged children behind others, both within and outside the country.
This disadvantage is persistent and escalating. A recent study by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) estimates that child poverty will reach 23% and 24% by 2020-21, significantly higher than the government targets of 5% and 10% set out in the Child Poverty Act (2010). These findings, in addition to Save the Children launching a fundraising campaign for UK children for the first time in 96 years, reveal the gravity of this situation.
Child poverty will reach 23% and 24% by 2020-21
In response to questions on the campaign, Prime Minister David Cameron said “"We are making sure we target help on the poorest families in our country, which is what we have done through the tax credit system... At the same time, I think we should praise all voluntary and big society efforts to help the poorest families in our country as well."
Save the Children is doing just this and aims to raise £500,000 to assist low income children's school careers and provide basic items to families including furniture, blankets, food and toys.
With no end in sight for the economic constraint experienced throughout the world, it is important for all actors including governments, charities and families alike, to contribute what they can to help disadvantaged children have the start in life that they deserve.