It’s nearly a year since the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health first joined forces with Child Poverty Action Group to explore the links between poverty and children’s health. We know that four million children in the UK live in poverty, and we know that there is a demonstrable link between social disadvantage and poor health outcomes, but we wanted to look beyond the data and discover what our members – paediatricians – were seeing on the frontline.
In his Manifesto, Sadiq Khan boldly declared that ‘in a city as prosperous as London, there is no excuse for child poverty’. He repeated this statement almost word-for-word in A City for All Londoners, his new vision for London, published in October last year. Obviously we agree, but what action has he taken since to tackle the drivers of child poverty? And by this we mean the high housing costs, lack of affordable childcare, underemployment and low pay in the capital.
We entered this general election campaign with child poverty at 4 million, projected to rise to 5.1 million by the end of the next parliament (assuming it’s a five-year term). The next government must get to grips with the underlying causes of poverty to make sure all children have a great start in life – and the opportunity to thrive. We have set out the practical steps politicians can take after 8 June to tackle child poverty.
This week we publish our latest Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook – indispensable for those advisers and frontline workers who need comprehensive, up-to-date information and, crucially, the relevant law to challenge decisions.
Thanks to the UNICEF Office for Research a book has been published today tracing what happened to children in rich countries following the financial crisis:
B Cantillon, Y Chzhen, S Handa and B Nolan, Children of Austerity: impact of the great recession on child poverty in rich countries, Oxford: OUP, 2017.
‘Fairness’ was the word Lord Freud used to justify the lowering of the benefit cap. But there is no fairness to be found in a policy that ignores assessed need, mostly affects people who can’t work to increase their income, and hits households with children in 94 per cent of cases.
Today’s awful figures tells us several things. Child poverty is high. It’s rising – it’s jumped to 4 million. Two thirds of poor children come from working families. But perhaps the main lesson to take away is that we need to call time on the unfathomable Whitehall orthodoxy, driven by George Osborne but still in place under Theresa May, that rising child poverty is a price worth paying to protect our children.
For a Prime Minister who walked into Downing Street decrying the ‘burning injustice’ of poverty and contrasting the opportunities available to some children but not others, there was a disappointing omission in last week’s budget: child poverty.