UN raises alarm over UK child poverty
The UN has ranked Britain as one of the worst-performing countries in terms of child poverty rates among 39 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the EU.
In a report published on Wednesday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimated that nearly 70 million children in high- and upper middle-income countries live in poverty. The Innocenti Report Card 18 is based on the latest available statistics on child poverty, as well as each nation’s progress in tackling the problem from 2012 to 2021.
The UK was placed toward the bottom of the rating, occupying 37th place, ahead of only Türkiye and Colombia. While Central and Eastern European nations such as Poland, Slovenia, Latvia, and Lithuania have reduced child poverty significantly over the past decade, Britain has suffered a 20% increase, according to the report.
UNICEF warned that growing up in an impoverished environment can have life-long adverse effects, and called on governments to address the issue more actively.
Commenting on the report, UNICEF UK chief executive Jon Sparkes said that “while some countries in this group have taken steps to increase support, in the UK we have seen a reduction in spending on child and family benefits and more children growing up in poverty as a result.”
A spokesperson for Britain’s Work and Pensions Department responded by claiming that the government had increased benefits by over 10% this year. The official added that “there are 400,000 fewer children and 1.7 million fewer people in absolute poverty when compared to 2010.”
The UK’s Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) reported in October that more than 1 million children in the country had endured the most extreme form of poverty in 2022. It also estimated that the number of Britons experiencing ‘destitution’ had surged 61% between 2019 and 2022, with 3.8 million people enduring this level of poverty. The number of ‘destitute’ children had nearly tripled since 2017, marking a dramatic 186% uptick, the group stated.
Many respondents to the JRF survey told researchers that they often had to make do with just one meal a day to ensure their children could also eat. More than half (51%) of destitute adults reported regularly having to go without hygiene and cleaning products, such as shampoo and toothpaste.