Statement: Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland Children’s Commissioners react to UNICEF report on poverty

The Children’s Commissioners for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales said:  

“The findings of UNICEF’s report ‘Child Poverty in the Midst of Wealth’ are deeply concerning. Comparative international research like this is crucial as it shows how little progress has been made in tackling child poverty in the UK between 2014 and 2021. The findings show that the UK ranks 37th out of the 39 comparator countries. Child poverty was, and remains, the most significant human rights issue in our nations. 

“We have consistently pressed the UK’s governments to do all they can to tackle child poverty, including calling for the UK Government to increase the income of families in poverty, reform the social security system, provide targeted intervention, safeguard children’s human rights immediately, and end the two-child limit on benefits. 

 “We cannot accept children going hungry, being cold and unable to learn as simply a fact of life. The UK and devolved governments must acknowledge UNICEF’s warning about the UK’s inadequate efforts and take urgent action to address child poverty immediately.” 

Commenting on child poverty in Scotland, Nicola Killean, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland, said:  

“While UK Government holds many of the levers for social security, the Scottish Government has the power to do more for children. Concrete actions include ensuring families have access to affordable housing, increasing the Scottish Child Payment and reviewing criteria for other types of support, including free school meals, to ensure more children are eligible.  

“Governments – from the UK, to Scottish, to local government – must take a rights-based approach to tackling child poverty. Children’s voices and experiences must be acted upon. Child rights impact assessments should be used for Scottish and local government budgetary decisions so that it becomes clearer which decisions are failing to improve children’s lives. 

“UNICEF’s research is UK-wide and it doesn’t capture the positive impact made by measures such as the Scottish Child Payment, but it is important to note that there are also some issues which are especially acute in Scotland. Child poverty in rural areas is often less visible. There are particular challenges that come from families needing to travel further to find employment, services or affordable childcare, alongside a shortage of social housing.  

“The UK and Scottish governments must immediately tackle child poverty.” 

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