Leading children’s charity the National Children’s Bureau, is calling for urgent action to address the "poverty and disadvantage that still wreaks havoc on children’s lives, causing them to lag far behind their more affluent peers in almost all areas of their lives".
A new report from the charity has shown that in comparison with other developed nations a "lack of ambition" for children growing up in this country causes children to suffer unnecessarily and risks these patterns of disadvantage becoming permanent features of our society.
Critical moment to tackle child poverty & inequality
Dr Hilary Emery, NCB Chief Executive, said: "Our analysis shows that despite some improvements, the inequality and disadvantage suffered by poorer children 50 years ago still persists today. There is a real risk that as a nation we are sleep walking into a world where children grow up in a state of social apartheid, with poor children destined to experience hardship and disadvantage just by accident of birth, and their more affluent peers unaware of their existence.
"All our children should have the opportunity to fulfil their potential regardless of their circumstances. We cannot afford to let them grow up in such an unequal ‘them and us’ society in which the talents of the next generation are wasted, leaving them cut adrift to become a costly burden to the economy rather than a productive asset.
"This is a critical moment of opportunity to tackle the child poverty and inequality that has been a permanent feature in our country for five decades. Government has a major role to play in leading the way to address this but there must also be a wider mobilisation of efforts and resources led by politicians from every party and involving charities, businesses and communities all playing a part in having greater expectations for every child."
Building 'greater expectations'
‘Greater Expectations’ compared data on different aspects of children’s lives today with a ground breaking national cohort study of 11-year olds published in 1973. It finds that significantly more children grow up in poverty today, 3.5m compared to 2m, and these children suffer devastating consequences throughout their lives, including:
• A child from a disadvantaged background is still far less likely to achieve a good level of development at age 4, to achieve well at school age 11 and do well in their GCSEs at 16 compared to a child from the most well off backgrounds.
• Boys living in deprived areas are three times more likely to be obese than boys growing up in affluent areas and girls are twice as likely.
• Children living in deprived areas are much more likely to be the victim of an unintentional injury/accident in the home and are nine times less likely than those living in affluent areas to have access to green space, places to play and to live in environments with better air quality.
• Almost one million children could be lifted out of poverty.
• The deaths of 172 children through unintentional injuries alone could be prevented every year.
• 320,000 more 15 to 19-year olds would be in education or training.
• Nearly 45,000 fewer 11-year olds would be obese.
• A staggering 770,000 fewer children under 5 would be living in poor housing conditions.
The National Children’s Bureau is calling for the creation of a central government Board with full ministerial representation, tasked with the development and implementation of a cross-government strategy to reduce the inequality and disadvantage children and young people face today. In order to underpin progress, the National Children’s Bureau recommends that the Office for Budget Responsibility discloses the impact that each Budget would have on child poverty and inequality in a report published alongside the Chancellor’s annual statement. In addition, parliament and civil society should create a common set of indicators to annually hold government to account and provide the basis for a shared vision of what we want to achieve for all our children.
‘Greater Expectations’ is available from: www.ncb.org.uk/greaterexpectationsL