Today sees the launch of UNICEF's Report Card 10: Measuring Child Poverty. I am a great fan of UNICEF's report cards because they have helped push child poverty up the agenda. They really show the difference that governments can make to children and families when they invest in tackling relative poverty.
Child poverty fell by over 100,000 children during the previous government for the simple reason they put money into the pockets of the poorest and they made work pay. The publication of Report Card 10: Measuring Child Poverty is timely as we dip back into recession and the Government is gearing itself up for implementation of the Welfare Reform Act which will introduce massive changes and cuts to the benefits bill affecting those on low incomes both in and out of work.
We know at first hand from our work at Family Action with disadvantaged and vulnerable families that excellent services and adequate welfare support are key ingredients to tackling poverty.
Whilst the government and academics can debate about how best to measure child poverty we know that services alone are not enough to tackle poverty and social mobility - cash counts for children. The evidence base is strong - the millennium cohort research shows that income impacts on child development.
Poverty is the single biggest determinant of positive outcomes for children in health, education and achieving success in employment. This is really not surprising as struggling to make ends meet is stressful for parents and this impacts on parenting and their relationships, there is no flexibility for buying things that are good for children like day trips and educational toys. There is no money for treats and it is hard to raise aspirations in your children as they witness long term unemployment rising, families around them facing insecure housing and the impact of poverty really begins to bite.
UNICEF's findings show the value of investing in children's futures and protecting family income at a time of financial crisis. Families with children are now in the eye of the austerity storm and we're deeply concerned that government measures to cut the deficit are blighting children's futures. The parents we support are under more pressure than ever before to provide for their children. Indeed, our recent Family Fortunes report showed that some parents have less than £2 per person per day to put food on the table after they've paid their rent and energy bills. This is what our parents have said:
"We just don't eat fruit any more. Because it's just too expensive."
"I regularly go without food so my kids can eat - especially if they need shoes or I need pay for a school trip."
"It's very, very hard and very stressful. I can't buy anything extra you know, for myself or my kids, you have to rob Peter to pay Paul to pay the bills."
"I fear for losing my home, there are no council houses free in our area and the rent are high my eldest is about to start her GCSCs what am I going to do?"
Our fears echo those of the families we work with; that families are paying the price for welfare changes, cuts to services and benefit cuts announced by the Coalition at the expense of children's futures.
We hope the Coalition takes note of the important evidence and learning from UNICEF today and strengthens their promise to make child poverty history - and this includes recognising the importance of income.
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