FLORENCE/NEW YORK/LONDON, 11 December 2020 – Child poverty is expected to remain above pre-pandemic levels for at least five years in high-income countries according to a new report by UNICEF. Only 2 per cent of government-provided financial relief across OECD and EU countries was allocated specifically to support children and families raising children during the first wave of the coronavirus.
The report Supporting Families and Children Beyond COVID-19: Social Protection in High Income Countries shows that one-third of the OECD and EU countries analysed did not implement any policies aimed at supporting children in their response to the first wave of the pandemic.
The report notes that a historic 10.8 trillion USD was spent on coronavirus responses by high-income countries from February to the end of July 2020, around 90 per cent of which was spent on fiscal stimulus packages directed to, or through, business. Although an essential part of the crisis response, business supports will inevitably exclude the most marginalized children and their families in society, meaning the worst off will be hardest hit.
The UK, Germany and Canada, were among countries that did invest in social protection policies and interventions designed to support children and families. In the UK, this included the extension of Free School Meals over the summer holidays, a Winter Grant package and the temporary uplift to Universal Credit.
Joanna Rea, Unicef UK Director of Advocacy says,
“Interventions made by the UK Government to date have helped support children and families in the short term. However, warnings of sustained high rates of child poverty, potentially for five more years, demonstrates an urgent need for the UK Government to prioritise investment in social policies and long-term solutions that place children and families at the heart of recovery plans.”
Using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a performance measure, the report highlights that of the six child focused SDGs, the UK is projected to perform better than average in the areas of child mortality, suicide and homicide rates, but worse than other EU and OECD countries in terms of relative income poverty, literacy and the rates of children and young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).
“Support for businesses is important, but children and families in need cannot afford to wait for the indirect benefits of a business-first approach to alleviate the devastating impacts of the pandemic on their lives and wellbeing.
“By developing and implementing a cross-departmental strategy which prioritises children and their rights, the Government can take action to ensure that a bright and fulfilling future is not pushed further out of reach for UK children today and for generations to come,” Rea added.
The recommendations outlined in the report and based on evidence from previous crises including the Global Financial Crisis, offer guidance to help find a better balance to support the needs of both families and children, as well as businesses.
In the UK, the Government can ensure that further support measures include strategies which support children and families impacted by the pandemic. These include:
- Putting children at the heart of our recovery by creating a cross-departmental plan for children and prioritising resources across the system for maximum impact for children.
- Provide fiscal support to families and children by making the temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit payments permanent beyond April 2021, and further strengthen child focused social protection systems in the long-term to improve children’s wellbeing, to maximise progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and build resilience against future shocks to the system.
- Ensure the eligibility criteria for existing family policies and financial support schemes, such as Free School Meals, enables all vulnerable families with children to access the support they need at this time.
- Conduct Child Rights Impact Assessments on new policy and funding measures to ensure that all responses address the needs of children and families across the wide range of social protection policies including income support, childcare, healthcare, and family-friendly policies in the workplace.
Unicef UK’s Save Generation Covid appeal is supporting children and families impacted by Coronavirus. Visit unicef.uk/donate-generationcovid to donate and help #GenerationCovid.
Notes to editors:
About UNICEF Innocenti
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