AUSTERITY is being exploited to drive through budget cuts and reforms which are denying children their basic human rights, according to a major new report, backed by more than 60 organisations and experts, being released today.
The State of Children’s Rights in England report from Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) examines how children and young people are faring in all aspects of their lives and finds gaps in many key areas.
It also reports that the government is not fulfilling its promise to check how its policies affect children’s rights.
The report accuses the government of using ‘economic pressures’ to ‘justify not only a serious erosion of children’s economic and social rights, such as health, food and the right to play, but also fundamental changes to our justice system.’
Welfare reforms driven by austerity, combined with rising prices and low wages, have resulted in children suffering ‘severe deprivation.’
Hundreds of thousands more children are living in poverty compared to a year ago – the total number is predicted to reach three million by 2015.
In terms of education, ‘staggering’ inequalities remain.
And when it comes to health, poor children are now four times more likely to be unhealthy than richer children, the report warns.
The report says: ‘Children are failing to receive essential state support because of cuts to services.’
And major reductions to legal aid and restrictions over judicial reviews ‘seriously undermine children’s ability to challenge rights violations,’ it adds.
Key aspects from the report include:
• a child in custody was restrained resulting in an injury requiring hospital treatment on average once a month in 2010-11;
• and in October 2012, 37% of children in custody were from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, a rise of 3% on the previous year.
Paola Uccellari, director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said: ‘We expect the state to protect children by ensuring their well-being and best interests are at the heart of public policy and services.
‘But when we look at all of the issues which have an impact on children in the UK today we can see that too many are still suffering from abuse, poverty and injustice.’
Responding to the findings, Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: ‘It is a stark indictment of a nation that considers itself to be modern and progressive that we cannot assume that children will be safe and thrive in today’s society.’
Lily Caprani, director of policy, The Children’s Society, commented: ‘Children’s rights must not be sacrificed in the name of government belt tightening.’
She added that cuts to legal aid ‘will deny children a legal voice and stop them from getting the legal support they are entitled to.’
Britain is signed up to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and was given a list of 118 areas which needed action after a visit by UN officials five years ago in 2008.
The CRAE has found that in relation to 31 per cent of recommendations things are getting worse for children.
There has been no progress, or things have got worse, in most areas needing improvement (88 out of the 118).
This comes just weeks before the government is due to report to the UN [Jan 2014] on its progress in protecting children’s human rights.
l Warmer housing, affordable childcare and credit are the overwhelming priorities for Greater Manchester families blighted by poverty, says The Children’s Society.
A new survey, commissioned to launch a major new initiative in the region, reveals huge demand for help to tackle deep-seated social issues affecting Greater Manchester.
It’s estimated that there are 150,000 children living in poverty in Greater Manchester – among the highest rates in the country.
The poll of more 1,000 adults, carried out to mark the setting up of The Children’s Society in Greater Manchester, revealed that 94% of adults want high quality childcare and a staggering 98% are calling for clean, safe and warm housing.
The new initiative is being supported by singer Misha B, who grew up in impoverished areas of Manchester.
The scale of the problems facing children are estimated by The Children’s Society to be among the worst they’ve been in the charity’s 120 year old history in Greater Manchester.
The initiative hopes to have the greatest possible impact on young lives in the area, by working collaboratively and fostering partnerships with other organisations across the area.
It aims to raise public awareness of the issues around child poverty and adolescent neglect and reinforce The Children’s Society in Greater Manchester as experts on these issues.
Some of the key issues The Children’s Society want to tackle are:
• Half of the children living in Moss Side, Hulme, Ancoats, Clayton, and Irwell Riverside live in poverty;
• Seven out of the ten local authorities are in the top 50% for rates of children on Child Protection Plans, and for looked-after children;
• 4,500 children run away every year; of these 25% will be hurt, or at significant risk of being harmed.
• The Children’s Society has been present in Greater Manchester since 1891 when it opened the Home for Boys in Rochdale and now helps 3,500 children across a range of services.
In addition to operating several Children’s Centres, The Children’s Society also runs services in children’s rights and advocacy, and therapeutic counselling.
It operates programmes for runaways and those facing sexual exploitation, and supports young refugees and those seeking asylum.
Misha B said: ‘When I heard that half of the children growing up in Moss Side live in poverty I immediately wanted to help.
‘I grew up in the Moss Side and Longsight districts of the city and saw at first hand the issues The Children’s Society aims to deal with.
‘Young people living in Greater Manchester have aspirations just as I did and so much potential which is blighted by poverty.’
Rob Jackson area director of The Children’s Society in Greater Manchester, said: ‘The results are shocking and underline that there are deep-seated social issues that are having a devastating effect on so many lives.
‘If we want to create a brighter future for children and young people it’s vital that all organisations across the city work together to tackle these issues head-on.
‘The Children’s Society in Greater Manchester is determined to make this happen.’