Cuts will reverse improvements in Child well-being  

Marlyn Glen

11 April 2013

UNICEF has just reported its latest findings on the well-being of children in the world’s 29 most advanced economies .

The figures refer to 2009-2010.

In the years since a survey in 2007, Britain has shown a noticeable relative improvement, rising from bottom to 16th. in the rankings. ( download report)

However it still means that children’s well-being in this country is assessed as being not as good as not only countries such as Fance and Germany, but also not as good as smaller ones as well such as Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Denmark, Slovenia, The Czech Republic, Portugal and Belgium.

The Netherlands came first for child well-being, followed by the Nordic quartet of Norway, Sweden,Finland and Iceland.

Child-well being was measured using five characteristics :

1- Material well-being ( money, child poverty, child deprivation, low family affluence)
2- Health and Safety ( infant mortality, low birth weight, immunisation rates, deaths aged 1-20)
3- Education ( rates of participation in early education and further education, average reading scores in reading, maths and science. )
4 – Behaviour and Risk ( Being overweight, eating breakfast, eating fruit, taking exercise , teenage fertility rate, smoking, alcohol, drugs, fighting, being bullied.)
5 – Housing and environment ( Rooms per person, multiple housing problems, homicide rate, air pollution )

It’s no coincidence that Nordic and Scandinavian countries have almost resident top places in studies of child-raising .

Last year’s the Save the Children State of the World's Mothers survey listed the top 6 countries where to be a mother as : ( top first ) Norway, Iceland, Sweden, New Zealand, Denmark, Finland.

One reason why these countries perform so well in these reviews are family -friendly work and welfare policies.

For example, the European Union description of “ Sweden: Successful reconciliation of work and family life “ reads :

“Swedish parents are among the EU’s most successful in balancing work and family responsibilities.

“Female and maternal employment rates are among the highest in the EU, and child poverty is the lowest.

“The country’s family policy is aimed at supporting the dual-earner family model and ensuring the same rights and obligations regarding family and work for both women and men.

“Generous spending on family benefits, flexible leave and working hours for parents with young children and affordable, high-quality childcare are the main factors for success.

“The aim of the Swedish financial family policy is to contribute to improved conditions for good living standards for all families with children, increased freedom of choice and empowerment of parents.”

The good news that the UK improved its relative position will be short-lived.

UNICEF’s study refers to the years before the Tory-Lib Dem coalition took power in 2010 , and so the effect on children’s development of their policy of cutbacks cannot be properly assessed .

However, the Institute for Fiscal Studies forecast two years ago that their policies would push 600,000 more children into poverty, so that by this year, the projected number of children in poverty in the UK would be just over 3 million.

Research by Understanding Society has discovered that children’s perception of the value of continuing education and training have been affected by the recession with those in lower income groups tending to hold less favourable views of their benefit.

It found that during times of high unemployment, teenagers’ plans for remaining at school beyond 16 were strongly influenced by their parents ‘ schooling , and not their income or whether they have a job.

Government cuts in child benefit, tax credits and maternity pay and other benefits in this financial year will certainly affect families.

The palpable indifference of the Government to the needs of women have been revealed by Yvette Cooper, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, with fresh information showing that George Osborne’s Budget leaves women collectively worse off by a net £6 billion this year (download )

Women have stopped asking,“ What have the Tories done for us?” to saying instead, “Here’s what the Tories have done to us”.

Children’s well-being depends upon the support from the family and upon the well-being of mothers, many of whom are battling against the continuing dismal economic outlook and cuts in jobs in the public sector, where the large majority of employees are women.


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