Posted: 26 June 2013

The government must protect vulnerable children

Today the children’s commissioner for England has given her view on the impact the government’s austerity programme has had on children's rights, and it makes for worrying reading.

The report (read our chief executive's response), by independent experts, shows that changes to welfare and other public spending mean there will be 600,000 more children living in poverty in 2015 than there were in 2010.

It also reveals that the most vulnerable children lose out the most from these changes.

How much families lose out

The poorest 10% of families with children are losing an average of £40 per week, which is more than a tenth of their weekly income.

Families with children are also being disproportionately hit by changes to public spending on services. They make up 32% of working-age families, but shoulder 63% of cuts to public spending, including money spent on early years, education and health.

The burden falls more heavily on families with disabled children and lone-parent families. Children living with disabled adults are also affected disproportionately, which will mean fewer resources available for young people who have to provide care at home. Our recent report Hidden from View shows that families with a young carer are already £5000 poorer on average than other families.

Are children's legal rights being met?

The report raises the question of whether the government will meet its legal obligations to protect children’s rights, enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Not only does it call into question whether the government will meet its obligation to ensure children have an adequate standard of living, it also leaves the government open to claims that it is not making decisions in the best interests of children and protecting the most vulnerable, thereby risking claims of discrimination against particularly vulnerable groups of children.

Today’s report shows the government missed key opportunities in last year’s autumn statement and this year’s budget to change course and prevent this shocking rise in child poverty. Rather than improving the situation for vulnerable children and families, their decisions have made matters worse. 

The government should recognise that hundreds of thousands more children will be forced into poverty as a result of their austerity measures. It must also review the impact of its welfare reforms and public spending decisions on children, and fulfil its legal obligations to them, under international law.

By David Hounsell - Policy team

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