Wednesday 14 February 2007

UK children worst off in industrialised world

Today's UNICEF report blows the lid on the New Labour rhetoric about focusing on child poverty. Inequality in the UK has grown under Brown's Chancellorship, and we have missed even our own moderate targets on reducing child poverty.

This independent report puts the UK bottom among 21 industrialised nations for child well-being - and is a result of long-term trends that started under the Tories and have continued under New Labour.

In reaction to the report, Save the Children said: "The UK Government is not investing enough in the well-being of children, especially to combat poverty and deprivation". Even the Government's own Children's Commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green said, "I think the shocking conclusion is that as a nation we have been failing our children".

The most startling findings are that the child poverty has doubled since 1979, and that over one in seven children live in households earning less than half the national average wage. The UK came 18th in the study for children's material well-being, despite being the fifth richest country. In education well-being (which measured school achievement, further education, and the transition to employment) the UK came 17th.

Despite this evidence, and a volley of condemnation and concern from the UK's children's charities and from the Children's Commissioner, the Government has dismissed the report as "out of date".

So let's bring the Government up to date: the latest figures for youth unemployment (December 2006) show that it is higher than when we came to power in 1997; according to UCAS last year there were fewer university applications from working class children - deterred by top-up fees and debt; and a report by Save the Children in January this year showed that in many inner city areas about half our children are living in poverty.

The reality is that inequality in income, health, housing, education is damaging the life chances of UK children both materially and psychologically.

The shameful findings of this report should act as a wake-up call to fight for socialist and redistributive policies.