A new UNICEF report on child inequality in 24 developed countries has shown that income poverty has the greatest impact on child inequality in the UK. UK levels of income poverty push the most disadvantaged children further behind compared to similar countries, such as France and Germany.
UNICEF UK’s Executive Director David Bull said, ‘Tackling income poverty should remain the number one priority for Government to reduce child inequality in the UK. At a time of austerity we must not widen this gap. Children living in poverty must not pay the price for reducing the deficit and should be the first to be protected. Household income must be central to next year’s child poverty strategy.’
Singling out the importance of income, the report comments that ‘one of the most disturbing aspects of changed economic times’ is that ‘full time employment no longer guarantees a life lived above the poverty line.’
Report Card 9, ‘Children Left Behind’, uses a new method of measuring how far the most disadvantaged children have been allowed to fall behind those at the median level in health, educational and material well-being. The report then ranks all 24 countries according to the size of this gap.
The UK is ranked alongside countries such as Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the bottom two fifths of countries. Government spending has prevented many children from falling into poverty, but the UK has a particularly high level of inequality in access to basic educational resources at home.
In response to the report UNICEF UK is calling on the Government to:
- Set ambitious interim targets in next year’s child poverty strategy that must include benefits and income.
- Apply a ‘fairness’ test to all proposed changes to the benefit, tax, health and education systems to ensure that new policies do not increase inequality between children.
- Design the new universal credit to ensure that no family with children has to live on less than a living wage.
- Promote the living wage.