Damning report says Tory welfare cuts are systematically breaching UN conventions on the rights of the child
Scotland’s children’s commissioner has told the United Nations the UK government has failed to protect the country’s most disadvantaged children from poverty.
Tam Baillie helped issue a joint report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and called for the Westminster government to reverse its planned £12 billion cuts, the majority of which “are targeted at the most vulnerable people in our society” he said.
Current UK government policies made “a mockery of our international obligations to children” said Baillie – citing that children have the right to help from the government if they are poor or in need.
This, he said, was not happening because of the current avalanche of welfare cuts.
Baillie said: “The government’s short-term budgetary policies will have long-term, corrosive effects on children across the whole UK, affecting their health, educational attainment and life expectancy.
“The government must reconsider its policy of austerity measures for the sake of children across the UK.”
The report is published jointly alongside the UK’s other children’s commissioners in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It states: “Governments should help families and guardians who cannot afford to provide this, particularly with regard to food, clothing and housing.
“The reductions to household income for poorer children as a result of tax, transfer and social security benefit changes have led to food and fuel poverty and the sharp increase in the use of foodbanks.
“Children in the UK are paying the highest price for the government’s austerity measures.”
And they state that spending cuts were damaging delivery of services that children and the most vulnerable rely on, making the problem even worse.
Mental health services were found to be vastly underfunded.
The report said: “Austerity measures have cut universal preventative services which will result in more significant interventions being required for older young people.”
It warned that health, education, early intervention services and youth services have all seen reductions that are causing even greater problems.
And worrying, the report states that 4.7 million children are projected to be living in poverty by 2020 if current policies continue.
A child is defined as being in relative poverty when living in a household with an income below 60% of the UK's average.
Last week, government figures suggested the number of UK children classed as living in relative poverty remained 2.3 million.
Baillie added: “A number of initiatives have been introduced to mitigate some of the effects of the welfare changes, such as the Scottish Welfare Fund and the investment by the Scottish Government and local authorities in the council tax reduction scheme.
“The Scottish Parliament’s welfare reform committee has also paid attention to the impacts of the austerity measures.
“This is positive, but child poverty remains. It remains, it increases and at the same time, children’s right to redress is decreasing.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "The best route out of poverty is work and this government makes no apology for its efforts to raise incomes by expanding employment opportunities.
"Our reforms to the welfare system are focused on making work pay and our reforms to the tax system are allowing people to keep more of what they earn."