Invisible children: ignored by government and bearing the brunt of spending decisions
Children’s charities today (Wednesday 1 July) launched a damning report highlighting how Government policies and spending decisions have failed to prioritise children. Based on the evidence in the report, children's charities are asking the Government to put children at the centre of decision-making, including in the forthcoming Budget.
New research for the coalition of charities in the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), indicates that Government policy means:
millions of children continue to live in poverty
spending on services for children and families has fallen to 2006 levels, despite increasing need
many vulnerable children are no longer entitled to help with legal advice and representation costs, severely limiting their access to justice
an increasingly hostile environment aimed at migrants means many vulnerable children are facing more restrictive immigration policies, cutting them off from access to justice and from basic services.
The report sets out how the UK Government breaches its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), because it is not fully considering how its decisions affect children.
The report also finds that:
reported child sex abuse has risen by 60% in the last four years, while arrests for child sexual abuse offences have fallen by 9% during the same time period
an approved restraint hold is permitted on children in detention, despite serious medical risks
spending cuts have undermined both in-work and out-of-work support for families with children, and welfare reform has had a disproportionate impact on under-18s
the use of Taser on children has increased rapidly in recent years, without any specific training or guidance on this or detailed investigation into its physical or psychological effect on children
the UK continues to be the only country in Europe that recruits from age 16 to the armed forces – some of whom have a reading age of just five years.
Children’s low status is reinforced by the lack of senior political leadership on children: there is no Cabinet-level minister or Cabinet sub-committee for children.
To understand the impact government decisions have on children, CRAE carried out research among nearly 1,000 marginalised children in England. Children told them:
“Young people are portrayed like scum” (boy, 14)
“We wouldn’t have…that much food, we would never have money to… the food bank helps a lot because we get food” (girl, 12)
“My social worker wasn’t there when I needed them most” (girl, 14)
“I was in a B&B for, like, 17 weeks with smack heads…adult smack heads…” (girl, 17)
“I share [a bedroom] with my aunty, my big sister and my other sister. And my Mum sleeps with my Dad and my sister” (boy, 8)
The research report provides many more examples, covering children’s views on being respected, their experience of violence, being in care, poverty, and how they are treated in school.
Louise King, Co-Director, Children’s Rights Alliance for England said:
“Every child has a human right to a good start in life – an equal chance to do well at school, to be healthy, safe and cared for. But too many children are invisible to the Government: decisions on welfare, cuts to vital services, and children’s day-to-day treatment all threaten children’s human rights. We have made more than 170 recommendations on how the lives of children can be improved, many of which are not about spending more money, but putting children at the heart of Government decision-making. Without this, the most vulnerable children will remain invisible”
Kate Mulley, Director of Policy and Campaigns, Action for Children, said:
“With decreasing local government budgets particularly affecting preventative services, we are concerned more children will be put at risk of serious neglect and abuse or taken into care.
“We work with some of the country’s most vulnerable children and their families. Our experience of getting help and support to families early can prevent situations from reaching crisis point. Spending on preventing harm to vulnerable children, rather than picking up the pieces when it’s too late would change lives and save millions in taxpayers money.”
Peter Grigg, Director of External Affairs, The Children’s Society said:
“Migrant children continue to be hit by a range of harsh measures. Cuts to legal aid, alarmingly low levels of asylum support and changes that are making it even harder for them to get critical housing, healthcare and other support are affecting their lives and well-being.
“As we see from our frontline work every day, Government measures are pushing many migrant children into poverty, homelessness and exploitation. We urge the Government to take urgent action to reverse this trend by following its commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Migrant children are children in need - not immigration statistics.”
Read CRAE's Civil Society submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child
Read a summary of the Civil Society report
Read the See it, Say it, Change it submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child