Unicef UK: UK not yet meeting its international obligations to UK children

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15 June 2017 – The UK Government still has some way to go to ensure it meets the commitments it made to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at home, resulting in positive change for the country’s children, reveals a new Unicef report.

In a new Unicef publication “Report Card 14: Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries” 41 high-income countries were assessed in relation to children and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The report finds the UK has seen significant falls in the rates of teenage pregnancy and underage drinking has been cut by half. But it has worrying rates of poor child mental health, with one in five children reporting that they experience two or more psychological symptoms once a week. The UK also has one of the highest rates of women reporting they experienced sexual violence before age 15.

Other indicators reveal that one in five children in the UK live in relative income poverty, with social transfers accounting for a 54% reduction in child poverty. However, the UK does better than most in reducing inequalities. On this measure, it ranks at six out of 41 countries; ahead of Germany, France and US, but below many of the Nordic countries.

Unicef UK calls on the UK government to outline a clear strategy on how it will implement the SDGs at home and abroad. This includes improving data collection around SDG indicators and continuing its global leadership role by reporting its own progress to the High Level Political Forum in 2018, and submitting at least three voluntary national reviews by 2030.

In a recent poll, Unicef UK found that over 90 percent of children want the UK government to implement the SDGs, with children in the UK highlighting quality education and combating violence and abuse as the most relevant issues for them.

Lily Caprani, Deputy Executive Director of Unicef UK said:

“Unlike the Millennium Development Goals that preceded them, these goals apply to rich countries as well as poor. The UK still has a way to go to implement these goals and build a more prosperous future for its children. The UK Government has been a leader in developing the SDGs and we urge them to re-double their efforts and outline a clear strategy to deliver on the commitments to the goals here in the UK, as well as overseas. This will make a critical difference to children.”

Key results on selected SDG indicators for children and adolescents in the UK include:

End Poverty (SDG 1): One in five children live in relative income poverty measured at 60 percent of the median household income in the UK. 34 percent of children in the UK experience multi-dimensional poverty. The UK ranks 16th out of 30 countries on this indicator.

Ensure healthy lives (SDG 3): Report Card 14 reveals a significant fall in teenage drunkenness in the UK, which has halved since 2010. Likewise, the teenage pregnancy rate continues to fall from 26 births per 1000 females aged 15-19 in 2005 to 13.9 births per 1000 now. However, mental health is a continuing challenge, with one in five teenagers experiencing two or more psychological symptoms once a week. The UK ranks 16th out of 31 countries under this indicator.

Gender Equality (SDG 5): The UK has one of the highest rates of women aged 18-29 reporting having experienced sexual violence before aged 15 (12.3 percent).

Nutrition (SDG 2): Polling finds that one in five children in the UK is reported to be living with an adult who is food insecure. The United States and Mexico fare worse on this indicator, with Japan, Denmark and Switzerland performing best.

Decent economic growth and work (SDG 8): The UK ranks in the bottom third under this goal (31st out of 40 countries) with 8.4 percent of 15-19 year old not in education, employment and training. Japan, Switzerland and Luxembourg are at the top of the table on this indicator, with Greece, New Zealand and Ireland performing worse than the UK.


Note to editors:

Building the Future is the 14th edition of the Report Card series produced by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. The report focuses on 10 SDGs considered most relevant to child well-being and uses comparable data sources on 25 indicators specifically selected to assess the status of children in high-income contexts. A composite league table summarises 41 European Union and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries’ performance across the full range of indicators.

Polling data is used to complement other official data sources in recognition of the growing importance of citizen generated data. Unicef UK polled its U-Reporters on the SDGs and some 167 young people responded to the poll.

The UN FAO measures food insecurity using its Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), consisting of eight questions regarding people’s perceived access to adequate food.

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe.

Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

For further information, please contact:
Unicef UK Press Office on 0207 375 6030 / [email protected]