14/08/2014 16:49 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Austerity Policies Are 'Failing Children On A Grand Scale', Say Leading Doctors

Austerity policies are 'failing children on a grand scale', say leading doctors

The Government's austerity policies are 'failing children on a grand scale', say leading doctors.

The British Medical Association claims cuts to social care and welfare budgets are harming the well-being of those in the poorest families.

The BMA accused the Government of 'not taking children's interests seriously' and claimed its policies could reverse improvements made over the past decade by widening social inequalities.

They called on the parliamentary Health and Education select committees to launch an inquiry into the welfare of children in Britain.

Launching a new report, Growing Up in the UK, Prof Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, the first children's commissioner for England, said: "Britain is failing its children on a grand scale.

"We have failed, are still failing, and will continue to fail far too many of our children until we grasp the reality of what this book spells out ... I shine my spotlight firmly on politicians for not taking children's interests seriously."

The report emphasised that more children than ever were put into care last year, principally due to abuse and neglect, and a greater number are still dying in Britain than other western European nations despite some improvement in death rates.

Failings in health care mean that just three per cent of children with asthma have a full, written plan for managing their condition and only five per cent with diabetes are being given a level of care which meets "best practice" guidelines, it said.

A UNICEF study placed Britain as 16th out of 29 wealthy countries for child well-being – an increase from last place in 2007 – but much of this progress could be wiped out because of government policy since the last general election, the report claimed.

In particular cuts to Sure Start children's centres and changes to the benefits system could harm the most vulnerable children while ministers have not lived up to pledges to tackle problems like binge drinking and obesity, it said.

The BMA called for parenting classes aimed at children in households with unhealthy lifestyles, tackling drinking and poor nutrition during pregnancy and a ban on advertising of certain foods to children.

Professor Averil Mansfield, chair of the BMA's board of science, said: "The BMA is particularly concerned that any improvements in tackling child poverty are in danger of being eroded by some government welfare policies.

"Children should not pay the price for the economic downturn ... while there has been some progress I still find it shocking that for a society that considers itself to be child-friendly that we consistently underperform in international ratings."

A Government spokesperson said: "The truth is, our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities, with the Universal Credit making three million household better off and lifting hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.

"Every child should have the same opportunity to lead a healthy life, no matter where they live or who they are.

"Working with a broad range of organisations, we have pledged to do everything possible to improve children's health."