One of the leading researchers for the report was University of Brighton Principal Research Fellow, Dr Carol Robinson, from the School of Education.
The report finds that the cumulative impact of changes since June 2010 has been negative on a broad range of children’s rights. It concludes that the government is failing to meet its commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which compels signatories to protect children, and in particular, the most disadvantaged groups, from the adverse effects of economic policies.
The report, Child Rights Impact Assessment of the 2013 Autumn Statement and 2014 Budget, is based on a forensic analysis of recent budgetary and fiscal measures commissioned from Landman Economics supported by research into children’s perspectives on their effect by the University of Brighton, also published today. It builds on work on the impact of budgetary and fiscal measures since 2010 published last year by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner.
The detailed analysis of the Autumn Statement 2013 and the Budget 2014 shows that incomes households have available, on average, to meet children’s rights were reduced by the package of changes to taxes, tax credits and welfare benefits which were introduced. Some measures, like universal free school meals for infant school children, mitigated the adverse impact, but they were far from sufficient to make good the losses since 2010.
Children and young people who contributed to the research felt that the failure to increase benefits in line with the costs of living would reduce family income in real terms and lead to families having less money to spend on basic essentials such as food, clothing and heating, as well as recreation. They wanted the government to urgently reconsider budgetary measures which leave families struggling to afford essential items.
One young person who took part in the research said: “A family relying on benefits isn’t going to be able to get the money they need just to buy the same amount of food and other things with their money; it’s not fair what the government’s doing to these families.”
In 2008, in its concluding observations on the UK, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concerns about the then measures to eradicate child poverty and tackle inequalities. The committee is due to re-examine the UK’s performance against the Convention on the Rights of the Child again in 2016.
Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England said: “The difference in outcomes and life expectancy between children raised in low income and wealthy families is scandalous. Although the government’s recent work to lower the number of children raised in poverty has been well-intentioned, our research, alongside that of others, shows that since 2010 tax and transfer measures have had a negative effect. It also shows that the most vulnerable – disabled children and those raised in single parent families – have been hit the hardest. This government has very few opportunities left to fulfil the rights of all children to social security and an adequate standard of living and I very much hope it seizes the opportunity to do so in the forthcoming Autumn Statement."
Dr Carol Robinson, Principal Research Fellow, University of Brighton, said: “Findings from our research indicated that all groups of participants interviewed, children aged 9 to15, young people aged 16 to 20, and parents and carers, considered the changes proposed in the 2013 Autumn Statement and the 2014 Budget would have a significant detrimental impact on children and young people. In particular, their rights to good health and an adequate standard of living were at risk.
“The UK took a very positive step in adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which provides protection and freedom for children and young people. However, it is time to build on this and ensure children’s rights to an adequate standard of living, to social security and to health are upheld.”
Find out more on the child rights impact assessment.