Leading children’s organisation calls for more targeted investment in UK’s children
A new UNICEF report places the UK in 16th* position, below Slovenia, Czech Republic and Portugal, in the UNICEF league table of child well-being in the world’s richest countries. The report is a follow-up to Report Card 7 which in 2007 placed the UK at the bottom of 21 developed countries for overall child well-being.
Despite child well-being improving during the first decade of this century there are still areas in which the UK ranks significantly low – most noticeably affecting young people, aged 15 to 19. These include a continuing high rate of teenage pregnancy and high numbers of young people under 19 not in education, employment or training. The UK also has one of the highest alcohol abuse rates by 11 to 15 year olds.
UNICEF UK warns that the situation of children in the UK is expected to worsen as government’s cuts continue to impact on children and young people. More than £300 million has been cut from services for young people in the education department’s 2011-12 budget, a 26 per cent drop from the previous year. As well, 400,000 more children are projected to be in child poverty by 2015-2016 due to austerity measures, according to the Family and Parenting Institute and the Institute for Fiscal Studies (2012).
The UNICEF report finds that:
- The UK has the lowest rates of further education in the developed world, with participation rates falling below 75 per cent compared to 80 per cent in all of the more populous developed countries.
- The UK has one of the highest rates of young people not in education, employment, or training, affecting 10 per cent of 15-19 year olds and ranking the UK 24th out of 28 economically advanced countries in this area.
- The UK is one of only three countries where teenage pregnancy rates have risen. Since the present government came into power, many services that were specifically developed to tackle teenage pregnancy have been cut.
The report indicates that between 2000 and 2010 the previous government’s policies paved the way for more children, particularly in their early years, to have improved lives. However, this investment in the early years of a child’s life was not matched by a sustained focus on the teenage years, and the present government is continuing to fail young people. Although the Report Card shows the UK moved up the league table in overall well being, since 2010 the downgrading of youth policy and cuts to local government services are having a profound negative effect on young people.
UNICEF UK fears that without a coherent youth policy in place that is championed by central government, and ring-fenced funding for young people at local government level, any improvements that have been made in the well-being of young people in the UK will be reversed.
Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF UK, Anita Tiessen says: “There is no doubt that the situation for children and young people has deteriorated in the last three years, with the government making policy choices that risk setting children back in their most crucial stages of development.’
“With the UK ranking at the bottom, or near the bottom, of the league table on teenage pregnancy and young people not in education, employment or training, we know that many are facing a bleaker future. The government needs to acknowledge this and act now. While children and young people will be the first to bear the brunt if we fail to safeguard their well-being, over time society as a whole will pay the price’.
Additional UK findings from the report:
- The UK has one of the highest alcohol abuse rates by young people. Approximately 20 per cent of children in the UK (aged 11 to 15) report having been drunk on at least two occasions.
- The UK is placed in the bottom third of the infant mortality league table with a rate of 4.4 deaths per 1,000 live births, approximately double the rate of Sweden or Finland and below Estonia and Slovenia.
- The UK is one of only three OECD countries with a teenage pregnancy rate of more than 30 per 1,000.
In addition to the UK statistics, the report reveals that:
- The bottom four places in the child well-being table are occupied by three of the poorest countries in the survey, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania, and by one of the richest, the United States
- The Netherlands is the only country ranked among the top five countries in all dimensions of child well-being, including material, health and safety, education, behaviour and risks, and housing and environment.
- The report also shows that four Nordic countries – Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden – sit just below the Netherlands at the top of the child well-being table.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, four southern European countries – Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain – are placed in the bottom half of the league table.
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* In Report Card 11 the UK is 16th out of 29 rich, developed countries in the child well-being league table. Since Report Card 7, which assessed child well-being in 21 industrialised countries, placing the UK at the bottom of the league table, the UK has only increased by 4 places.
For interviews, case studies and further information please contact: Georgina Thompson, Media and Communications Manager at UNICEF UK on 0207 375 6120 / firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 375 6096 / email@example.com
Notes to Editors:
Report Card 11 ranks 29 developed countries according to the overall well-being of their children. The report is a follow up to Report Card 7 which ranked 21 countries. The list has been expanded from 21 to 29 to include countries that have joined the European Union.
About UNICEF Report Cards
The UNICEF Report Card series is designed to monitor and compare the performance of economically advanced countries in securing the rights of children. Although each Report Card focuses on a different theme, as a series they build up a picture of child well-being across the EU and other rich nations, including the UK.
How is child well-being measured in the Report Card 11?
Report Card 11 measures child well-being through five dimensions of children’s lives: material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviours and risks, and housing and environment.
Data in the report goes up to 2010.
Other Report Cards in this series
Report Card 7 (2007): Child Well-being
Report Card 8 (2008): Early Years Care and Education
Report Card 9 (2011): Children Falling Behind
Report Card 10 (2012): Measuring Child Poverty
Statistics from the Department for Education published in January 2013 shows a reduction of £307.5 million to young peoples services (26.0%) in 2011-12 compared to 2010-11.
A report from the Family and Parenting Institute and Institute for Fiscal Studies (2012) looked at the impact of the austerity measures on households with children and found that child poverty is set to increase by 400,000 by 2015-16. Report can be found at http://www.ifs.org.uk/publications/5973
UNICEF is the world’s leading organisation for children, working in over 190 countries to help every child realise their full potential. We work with partners to transform the lives of children everywhere. UNICEF provides health care, water, nutrition, education and protection for children. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged children are our priority. As champion of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we work to protect and promote the rights of every child. UNICEF UK raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work and advocates for lasting change for children everywhere. We are a UK registered charity, supported entirely by voluntary donations. We do not receive any money from the UN. For more information, please visit unicef.org.uk