Cuts 'risk plunging more British children into poverty'

23 Nov 11
The UK's four children's commissioners have urged the government to reassess its spending plans, saying the cuts risk pushing more families into poverty.
By Richard Johnstone | 21 November 2011

The UK’s four children’s commissioners have urged the government to reassess its spending plans, saying the cuts risk pushing more families into poverty.
In a joint report to mark the International Day of the Child on November 20, the commissioners representing the four nations call for steps to be taken to ensure that children don’t face ‘disproportionate hardship’ from spending reductions.
They say they are concerned that cuts and welfare changes will increase the ‘high levels of persistent poverty’ if priority is not given to protecting vital children's services.
Although they acknowledge the ‘considerable challenges’ to the government’s finances as it tackles the deficit, they highlight that ‘the cuts are already impacting on key children’s services’.

The number of children living in relative poverty remains ‘unacceptable’ at 3.8 million, or one in three, the report said.

This is unchanged since 2008, and the target set by the then Labour government in 1999 to reduce child poverty by half by 2010 was missed.

Changes in the Welfare Reform Bill create a ‘very real danger’ that the number will increase, the commissioners warned. Among the changes that should be reconsidered is the cap on some benefits, including housing.

Speaking on behalf of all four commissioners, the Welsh commissioner Keith Towler said that ‘we continue to see some of our society's most vulnerable being denied a childhood’.

He added: ‘We fully acknowledge the considerable challenges facing governments on all levels and that tough decisions have to be made but we are deeply concerned that without assessing the impact of the severe cuts we've seen at all levels of government, we're in real danger of pushing more families into poverty.’

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said that benefit reforms, including the introduction of the Universal Credit, would lift 900,000 people, including 250,000 children, out of poverty by ‘helping people move into work’.

The report represents the mid-term review in the reporting cycle for the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UK government is required to report on progress to UN every five years, and its last report was in 2008.

Examining progress against the convention, which was ratified by the UK government 20 years ago, the commissioners highlight the ‘significant step’ taken by Welsh Government to make the convention part of its domestic law.

Ministers in Scotland have decided to enshrine in law a duty to have due regard to the UNCRC, and a youth justice review in Northern Ireland has also been welcomed.

The ‘progress’ in the three devolved administrations should give the Westminster government an opportunity to improve on its ‘positive, but limited, political progress’, the report concluded.


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