schoolsportThe wellbeing of British children has improved across most areas in the past five years but they still lag behind many of their European neighbours, according to the latest Unicef rankings.

The United Nations charity considered five areas: children's material wellbeing (how they are affected by poverty and material deprivation) health and safety, education, behaviour and housing conditions.

Based on these calculations the UK now ranks 16th out of 29 developed countries, a major improvement on last place (21st) in the 2007 table. Holland remain the top country for child wellbeing, followed by Norway and Iceland.

Improved wellbeing risked by cuts
However, Unicef UK warned that the improvements seen in recent year are at risk of being reversed by coalition cuts. It added that "since 2010 the downgrading of youth policy and cuts to local government services are having a profound negative effect".

Anita Tiessen, deputy executive director of Unicef UK, said: "There is no doubt that the situation for children and young people has deteriorated in the last three years, with the government making policy choices that risk setting children back in their most crucial stages of development."

Low teen wellbeing
The Children's Society backed this need for concern about the effects of the cuts as well as the low wellbeing among teenagers identified in the report.

"It is far too easy to assume that teenagers aren't as vulnerable as younger children or don't need as much support," said Lily Caprani, director of communications and policy at the charity.

Unicef's report suggests there was an overall general improvement in UK children's experiences, with a fall in young people who are overweight, from more than 15% to a little over 10%, and an increase in children's level of 'life satisfaction'.

Lowest levels of further education
Yet the report equally identifies figures showing the UK as having the lowest rates of further education in the developed world, with fewer than 75% of young people studying, compared with more than 80% in other populous developed countries.

The UK's continued low ranking also took account of figures showing rising teenage UK pregnancy rates, although more recent figures suggest these are now falling.

Determined to improve opportunities for children
Responding to the figures, a spokesman for the government said: "The data used in this report, which all relates to 2010 and earlier, underlines the urgent need for the government's reforms. We are determined to improve opportunities for children in this country."

He also highlighted the coalition's early education programme and investment in traineeships and apprenticeships.

Read the full report at http://www.unicef-irc.org/Report-Card-11/ 

Posted 10/04/2013 by richard.hook@pavpub.com