Shock report:

Shock report: cuts to have a 'catastrophic' effect on child poverty

Unicef warns UK that more children face life of poverty

The Government's spending cuts will have a "catastrophic" effect on British children, a UN agency has warned, endangering their future health, education and employment.

Click HERE to view graphic

Labour's success in cutting the number of children growing up in poverty could be reversed, according to Unicef. Britain did better than many other rich countries in protecting children from deprivation after the financial crisis erupted in 2008, Unicef said in its annual "report card" on 35 developed nations. But it warned that the Coalition's cuts to tax credits and freeze on child benefit will reverse this progress.

"We know that the number of children living in poverty in the UK is set to increase due to spending cuts," said David Bull, the executive director of Unicef UK. "This will be a catastrophic blow to the futures of thousands of children, putting at risk their future health, education and chances of employment.

"One thing is clear: government policies to tackle the deficit must not harm children. There is only one chance at childhood – we cannot see a generation, growing up in austerity, denied the chance to fulfil their potential."

Today Nick Clegg will answer the Government's critics by extending the provision of 15 hours of free childcare each week. Almost 1,000 two-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, who were due to start receiving free pre-school education from September next year, will now be eligible from this September. All three- and four-year-olds are already eligible for 15 hours of free early education a week between 8am and 6pm. The hours will now be extended to 7am-7pm and parents will be given the option to spread their nursery place over two days rather than three.

Under the Child Poverty Act passed by Labour, the UK's relative child poverty rate is due to be halved to no more than 10 per cent by 2020 and absolute income poverty (defined as living on an income below 60 per cent of the median, about £26,000) cut from 20 to 5 per cent. But Unicef warned that the figures could reach 24 and 23 per cent respectively by 2020 – well short of the legally binding targets, even though they have been adopted by the Coalition.

Unicef's report said the previous government achieved one of the largest reductions in child poverty by providing tax credits, cash transfers and accessible public services. But it said that the UK now has a higher rate of child deprivation than Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Unicef's league table takes account of whether children have access to 14 items including three meals and fresh fruit and vegetables every day; books; outdoor leisure equipment such as a bicycle; the internet and the opportunity to celebrate special days such as birthdays.

The UK has a higher percentage of children in poverty (12 per cent) – when defined as households with income lower than 50 per cent of the national median – than 21 of 35 economically advanced countries surveyed.

In Britain, 800,000 three- and four-year-olds already enjoy up to 15 hours of free early education every week. Ten areas will trial the entitlement for two-year-olds from this September: Blackpool, Cornwall, Greenwich, Kent, Lambeth, Lancashire, Newcastle, Northamptonshire, Peterborough and Rotherham.

Mr Clegg said: "We're revolutionising the early start our children get in life – there will be more free childcare, it will be higher quality, and it will be more flexible for parents. "Every child should have a fair crack of the whip from the start and be able to go on to fulfil their potential."

* Labour claimed last night there is a £9bn "black hole" in the welfare budget due to higher than expected spending on jobseeker's allowance and housing benefit. It blamed the "failure" of the flagship Work Programme, under which private firms and charities are paid to get the jobless back to work.

Chris Grayling, the Employment minister, dismissed Labour's claim as "nonsense." In a speech marking the programme's first anniversary today, he will admit that providers are finding the task "more challenging than expected" but insist the scheme has made "a decent start". He will warn under-performing providers that they will lose contracts.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power