The number of children living in vulnerable families will see a dramatic rise to one million by 2015 unless urgent action is taken to protect them, three of the UK’s leading charities warn today.
This would be a rise of 13 per cent since 2008 when there were 885,000 vulnerable children in Britain, according to joint research for Action for Children, NSPCC and The Children’s Society which has calculated the impact of the recession and austerity measures on vulnerable children for the first time.
The report, In the Eye of the Storm: Britain's forgotten children and families, reveals that the most vulnerable families with children will be disproportionately affected by tax and benefit changes and by other cuts in spending.
Children living in the most extremely vulnerable families will be most affected. Although there are currently fewer than 50,000 children living in these families, the number is set to almost double by 2015, to 96,000.
Overall vulnerable families will be £3,000 worse off each year by 2015 as a result of the Government’s changes.
The report reveals that far more families are struggling with problems such as unemployment, depression, poor quality housing and poverty than government estimates suggest.
Although the government’s Troubled Families Unit was set up to address some of the problems that vulnerable families face, the charities warn that the impact of the austerity on children has largely been overlooked.
Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children said: “The Government needs to ensure that children are not the victims of austerity and there is still time to get it right. Children are the future, and it is hugely disappointing that the parents of tomorrow are not being taken care of today. This report clearly shows that children are caught up as the innocent victims in austerity measures, and much more needs to be done to protect them. Through our own services we are already seeing first-hand the damaging effects taking their toll. This report is an opportunity for the Government to take stock of their decisions so measures are taken with children futures in mind.”
Andrew Flanagan, CEO of the NSPCC, said: “We all expect to bear some of the austerity but it seems the most vulnerable children are bearing the brunt. This will make the job of turning their lives around even harder. Our services are pioneering new ways to support the most vulnerable children but against a rising tide. We have to act to ensure that tomorrow’s adults do not pay the price for today’s mistakes.”
Matthew Reed, Chief Executive of The Children’s Society said: “The Government’s austerity measures are hitting the most disadvantaged children in our society the hardest. When too many children go to school hungry, have no permanent home or proper shoes, it is clear we are not all in this together. These latest figures make shocking reading and must act as a wake-up call to those with the power to reverse this trend.”
The charities, which together help over 400,000 children, called on the Government to do more to protect children from the effects of the recession, cuts to public services, and major changes to the tax and benefits system.
They called for integrated policies across government, particularly housing, health, employment, education and welfare, to give better protection to vulnerable children.
An urgent assessment of how any further spending cuts, or tax and benefit reform, could impact on children is also needed. They also demanded that ministers commit to track and report back on the number of children living in vulnerable families.