A coalition of the UK’s leading children’s charities is warning that the number of children living in vulnerable families in Britain will rise markedly to over one million by 2051, unless critical action is taken now.
Action for Children, NSPCC and The Children’s Society have come together and commissioned joint research, which calculates the impact of the recession and austerity measures on vulnerable children for the first time.
In the Eye of the Storm: Britain's forgotten children and families is released today and reveals that the most vulnerable families with children will be disproportionately affected by tax and benefit changes and significantly affected by other cuts in spending. Overall by 2015 vulnerable families will be £3,000 worse off each year as a result of these measures.
The report reveals that a large number of families are struggling with problems such as unemployment, depression, poor quality housing and poverty, far more than government estimates suggest.
Particularly worrying is the projected increase in the number of children living in extremely vulnerable families. Although currently fewer than 50,000, the number of children living in these families is set to almost double by 2015, to 96,0006.
The charities, which together help over 400,000 children, are calling on the Government to protect children better from the effects of the recession, sharp cuts to public services, and major changes to the tax and benefits system, so children are not put at further risk.
Specifically the charities want to see:
• Integrated policies across government, in particular housing, health, employment, education and welfare, to make sure vulnerable children are better protected;
• An urgent assessment of how any further spending cuts, or tax and benefit reform, could impact on children;
• A commitment to track and report back on the number of children living in vulnerable families.
Although the government’s Troubled Families Unit was set up to address some of the problems that vulnerable families face, the charities warn that the impact of the austerity on children has largely been overlooked.
Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children commented: “The Government needs to ensure that children are not the victims of austerity and there is still time to get it right. Children are the future, and it is hugely disappointing that the parents of tomorrow are not being taken care of today."
She continued: "This report clearly shows that children are caught up as the innocent victims in austerity measures, and much more needs to be done to protect them. Through our own services we are already seeing first-hand the damaging effects taking their toll. This report is an opportunity for the Government to take stock of their decisions so measures are taken with children futures in mind.”
Andrew Flanagan, CEO of the NSPCC, added: “We all expect to bear some of the austerity but it seems the most vulnerable children are bearing the brunt. This will make the job of turning their lives around even harder. Our services are pioneering new ways to support the most vulnerable children but against a rising tide. We have to act to ensure that tomorrow’s adults do not pay the price for today’s mistakes.”
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: “The Government’s austerity measures are hitting the most disadvantaged children in our society the hardest. When too many children go to school hungry, have no permanent home or proper shoes, it is clear we are not all in this together. These latest figures make shocking reading and must act as a wake-up call to those with the power to reverse this trend.”
Simon Barrow, co-director of the beliefs and values thinktank Ekklesia, welcomed the new report and said it was part of a growing range of evidence which indicated that the government was on the wrong tracks in its social policies.
"For those who live or work in close proximity to deprived neighbourhoods, families and individuals the childrens' charities new report charting the extent of unemployment, depression, poor quality housing and poverty hitting vulnerable children and others will not come as a surprise. But, examined in the cold light of day, the scale of impact still remains shocking," he said.
"The clear evidence is that we are not 'all in this together'. Austerity policies, which are deepening rather than alleviating the overall economic crisis, are also hitting the poorest hardest. The scarcity of sustainable work for those at the sharp end, combined with low incomes, swingeing social welfare cuts, massive pressure on local authority services and financial pressure on the voluntary sector - which is being expected to pick up the burden and put flesh on 'Big Society' rhetoric - is starting to produce long-term damage in our social and cultural fabric. A change of direction is badly needed," Barrow concluded.
* Executive summary and full, downloadable report: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/16811