Children’s Commissioners warn poverty persists and children will bear the burden

Joint response to Autumn Statement

Reacting to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Autumn Statement today, Bruce Adamson the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, Rocio Cifuentes, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, and Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People said: 

“It is important that lessons are learned from previous recessions, particularly the one resulting from the banking crisis.  Families who are reliant on social security and public services to survive can not be the ones who bear the biggest burden”  

According to the Office of Budget Responsibility today (17 November 2022), real household disposable income per person, a measure of living standards, is set to fall – the largest fall since ONS records began in 1956.  

Despite the changes to the benefits cap and benefits themselves announced today by the UK Government, the reality for families in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will mean that poverty levels persist, inequality persists and children will bear the burden. 

The three of us have heard directly from children how they feel poverty robs them of their childhood, but this is not inevitable. We cannot accept children going hungry, being cold and unable to learn and function as a normal part of our society. This is having a disproportionate impact on those children whose rights are already most at risk. 

Living in poverty does not simply affect children’s experience during childhood, it also frequently curtails the life chances available to them as adults, feeding the relentless cycle of intergenerational poverty and undermining social cohesion. 

The UK and devolved governments must use all available resources to the maximum extent possible to ensure children’s rights. We need every Government to take a children’s rights-based approach to how it monitors and responds to this crisis over the coming months. We must see deliberate and targeted action to mitigate the impact on children and their ability to access and experience their rights. 

Our calls remain. We must urgently: 

  • Increase the income of families in poverty, through child payments, and increase take up of those who are entitled to support.
  • Reform the social security system, review thresholds for support and remove the punitive benefit cap and the two child limit.
  • Reduce the costs to families, particularly the costs associated with education, transport and debt to public authorities.
  • Target interventions to families in vulnerable situations and ensure families have access to high quality affordable childcare.
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