​Austerity ‘condemns’ children to poverty – report to UN

Reuters / Darren Staples
Young people in the UK risk falling deeper into poverty if the government continues to make cuts to welfare programs, Britain’s four children’s commissioners have said.

In a report for the United Nations, the commissioners say austerity policies have already pushed 2.3 million children into poverty with the figure set to hit 4.7 million by 2020.

The commissioners for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also express their concern that the government’s plans to abolish the Human Rights Act will strip children of their rights.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said the government is increasing employment opportunities to counter poverty.

Child poverty rates remain “unacceptably high” according to the Commissioners’ assessment – the first full-scale review in seven years.

More children are forced live in substandard housing and temporary accommodation, while government cuts have meant reduced health, education and youth services.

The report expresses unease over the government’s plan to introduce £12 billion worth of further cuts, arguing more children will be affected by the budget announcement due next week.

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The commissioners say they are “deeply concerned” by the government’s plan to repeal the Child Poverty Act, a 2010 law which required the UK and devolved governments to take steps toward eradicating child poverty.

The children’s commissioners call on the government “to urgently review all budget and economic decisions to ensure that they do not push more children into poverty.”

They cite “growing evidence that many families across the UK struggle to meet the basic needs of their children including adequate food, clothing and heating in winter due to rising living costs, falling wages and tax and benefit changes.

The current child poverty rate across the UK makes a mockery of our international obligation. It is deeply disturbing that the UK government, aware of the current and future impact of its cuts, appears to be targeting the most vulnerable people in our society,” Commissioner for Children and Young People Scotland Tam Baillie said.

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The UK government’s austerity measures have condemned 2.3 million children into poverty and that number will increase if further proposed cuts are enacted. For one of the richest countries in the world, this is a policy of choice and it is a disgrace. It is avoidable and unacceptable.

The government’s short-term budgetary policies will have long-term, corrosive effects on children across the whole UK, affecting their health, educational attainment and life expectancy,” he added.

A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions claimed the commissioners’ report ignored the latest figures.

The best route out of poverty is work and this government makes no apology for its efforts to raise incomes by expanding employment opportunities.”

Our reforms to the welfare system are focused on making work pay and our reforms to the tax system are allowing people to keep more of what they earn,” he added.