Child health, poverty and poor performance in Britain

Children in Glasgow

Child poverty is one of the most significant factors in lifelong ill health and health inequalities. It raises the chances of early death from asthma, injury, infections and prematurity, and can lead to lifelong mental health problems. Recent Nuffield Trust data shows that 11% of children aged 15-19 years in Britain are living in severe material deprivation, the fourth-highest rate in Europe. Hannah Caller reports.

Child poverty is rising. Currently it is estimated that 4.1 million children in Britain are living in absolute poverty, 72% in working households, 2.9 million in all. There are predictions of a further six percentage points rise over next five years which will push child poverty to the highest level on record, a possible further 1.1 million children by 2023. The four-year freeze on child-related benefits and rising private rents are the key factors.

Child homelessness is the highest for 12 years, with a continuous rise in the numbers of families in temporary accommodation: 70% more than in 2010, and nearly a quarter over the last three years. Currently this means that there are 128,000 children in temporary accommodation, and there has been a 245% increase since 2010 of families with children in Bed and Breakfast hotels. Social cleansing - the allocation of temporary accommodation in another borough, town or city - has risen 320% in the last eight years. Children are at risk in such overcrowded, unsafe, and too often unsanitary living conditions; their education suffers as they move from school to school, and social life is made impossible with each move. The health consequences are clear: Britain compares poorly to other OECD countries in terms of childhood long-term conditions such as obesity and asthma. Mental health for children in Britain has been described as in crisis. Alarmingly, as an important indicator of population health, infant mortality is now rising in England, disproportionately in the poorest local authority areas.

The fight for child health is a fight against austerity.


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