In the eye of the storm: Britain's forgotten families and children
By Yvonne Martin - Senior corporate fundraiser
The most vulnerable families are most affected
Our new report, 'In the eye of the storm: Britain's forgotten children and families' highlights the need to protect children from the impact of austerity measures and start a national debate on the needs of children.
This research has been conducted by Landman Economics, on behalf of Action for Children, the Children's Society and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC).
By joining forces we aim to increase our influence on government and kick-start a national debate across as many audiences as possible. As well as the political implications, working in partnership has also enabled us to foster good working relationships with these highly reputable charities.
The research shows that the most vulnerable families and their children are being most heavily affected by changes to the tax and benefits system, as well as being hit by spending cuts affecting public services. The number of children living in vulnerable families is also set to rise. Here are some of the main findings from the research:
Families with four or more vulnerabilities are set to lose around 8% of their net income from the tax and benefit changes, compared to less than 5% for families with no vulnerabilities.
Combining the changes to the tax and benefits system with spending cuts to public services shows that families with 5 or more vulnerabilities lose approximately £3,000 per year.
Between 2008 and 2015 it is estimated that the number of families with five or more vulnerabilities will increase from 130,000 to 150,000 - an increase of just over 14%. The number of children living in families with five or more vulnerabilities is set to rise by 54,000 to 365,000, an increase of around 17%.
Taking a slightly wider definition of vulnerability, the number of children living in families with four or more vulnerabilities is set to rise from 885,000 in 2008 to just over one million by 2015, also an increase of 17%.
Particularly worrying is the projected increase in the number of children living in extremely vulnerable families - families with six or seven different risk factors. Although currently fewer than 50,000, the number of children living in extremely vulnerable families is set to double by 2015 to 96,000.
Recommendations to government
We are using these findings to make recommendations to the government. We would like the government to:
Re-think how to better protect children from the impact of the recession and the resulting austerity measures. A strategic approach should not start and end with a single unit or government department, but instead join up policies between health, education, social care, tax and benefits, employment and housing to ensure that the most vulnerable children are better protected. It should also address the full range of vulnerabilities that children and families face, rather than be limited to certain types of disadvantage.
Assess the impact on vulnerable children and families of any further changes to public spending, including any reforms to the tax and benefits system, in order to prevent unintended consequences.
Commit to monitoring changes to the number of vulnerable children and families in Britain, and report on the impact of public policy decisions on them.
How this fits in with our other policy work
This research strengthens our campaign to hold governments to account for the impact their decisions have on disadvantaged children. These findings will feed into Red Book 2012 and will provide us with an opportunity to meet with policy makers and influence their decision making.
Keeping children safe: The case for reforming the law on child neglect
Neglect is the most common form of child abuse, affecting up to 1 in 10 children in the UK. It is extremely damaging to children, and has effects that can last a lifetime.
The Children and Young Persons Act 1933, which applies to England and Wales, is no longer fit for purpose. This is because:
It fails to reflect the full range of harm neglected children suffer
It leaves parents unclear about their responsibilities towards children
Rather than trying to improve parenting, it only seeks to punish parents after neglect has happened
Changing the law on child neglect would help keep children safe.
This is why we are asking the Government to review the Children and Young Persons Act 1933.
Neglect is extremely damaging to children. Of all forms of abuse, neglect can have some of the worst and most long-term effects on the brain, physical development, behaviour, educational achievement and emotional wellbeing.
It robs children of the childhood they deserve and leaves broken families, dashed aspirations and misery in its wake.