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Unicef - UK risks leaving poorest children behind

The UK is lagging behind other rich countries in reducing inequality in child well-being, with concerning gaps in health, education, and income, according to a new report from Unicef.

Report Card 13 reveals just how far the most disadvantaged children in the UK are being left to fall behind.

One of the key areas of concern is the disparity in healthy behaviours among children. Of all the countries studied, the UK has the largest difference in the levels of healthy eating (consumption of fruit and vegetables) between children from low and high socio-economic status, along with one of the largest gaps in the levels of physical activity.

Another area of concern is inequality in education, where the UK is ranked 25th out of 37 countries – behind Slovenia, Poland and Romania – in reading, maths and science. One in 10 students falls below minimum proficiency levels in all three subjects by the age of 15.

The UK performs better on the measure of income inequality, where it sits seventh overall. But the report reveals that social transfers – such as working tax credits – nearly halve the relative income gap. Without the significant contribution of social transfers, it is estimated that the income gap would be among the highest in Europe.

The lack of progress means that ambitions to eradicate child poverty in the UK are unlikely to be realised in coming years.

“We must be more ambitious for our children,” said Lily Caprani, Unicef UK’s Deputy Executive Director. “Britain can and must do better. Inequality between children is damaging their lives and aspirations.

“Taking children’s rights seriously means acting with urgency to make sure no child is left behind. The UK Government should adopt, as a matter of urgency, a childhood obesity strategy that promotes and supports healthy lifestyles for low-income children. It must also act to further reduce income inequality, which includes protecting social transfers.”

Unicef’s Report Card series focuses on ‘bottom-end inequality’ – the gap between children at the bottom and those in the middle. Innocenti Report Card 13, Fairness for Children: A league table of inequality in child well-being in rich countries, presents an overview of inequalities in child well-being in 41 countries and addresses the question ‘how far behind are children being allowed to fall?’ in income, education, health and life satisfaction.

The report looks at inequalities between children during a time that spans the global financial crisis and recession and sees the UK ranked 14th out of 35 countries overall, tied with Germany, Greece and Hungary.

For each of the four measures of inequality, the UK is ranked:

Relative income gap – 7th out of 41 EU/OECD countries

Education achievement gap – 25th out of 37 EU/OECD countries

Self-reported health problems gap – 19th out of 35 EU/OECD countries

Inequality in life satisfaction – 20th out of 35 EU/OECD countries

Denmark is at the top of the overall league table with the lowest inequality among children, while Israel and Turkey are the lowest-ranked countries.

For more information:

Unicef UK Press Office +44 (0)20 7375 6030 media@unicef.org.uk

Notes to Editors:

Download the full report: http://www.unicef-irc.org

About the UNICEF Office of Research - Innocenti

The Office of Research – Innocenti is UNICEF’s dedicated research centre. It undertakes research on emerging or current issues in order to inform the strategic directions, policies and programmes of UNICEF and its partners, shape global debates on child rights and development, and inform the global research and policy agenda for all children, and particularly for the most vulnerable. Please visit: www.unicef-irc.org or follow us on Twitter and Facebook

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. 

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children. As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk

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