Thank you Dr. Paula Stone for once again giving us lots to ponder on in this week’s post.
Austerity is a term often bandied about in politics and the media; over recent years it seems to represent ‘a difficult economic situation caused by a government reducing the amount of money it spends’ i.e. not an economic necessity, rather a political choice. So when I heard that Theresa May, in her Conservative Party conference speech, had declared the government’s eight-year programme of austerity was over – I reflected on what austerity meant in is truest sense of the word ‘the condition of living without unnecessary things and without comfort, with limited money or goods, or a practice, habit or experience that is typical of this’ (Cambridge Dictionary). If true, the end of austerity will be a welcome relief to poorer families who are disproportionality affected by cuts to Government spending
The impact of eight years of austerity on children and families cannot be underestimated. There are currently four million children living in poverty, two-thirds of whom live in working households. And according to recent research led by Professor Paul Bywaters, those living in the most deprived areas in England are 10 times more likely to be on a child protection plan or come into care than their peers from more affluent areas
A recent report by the United Nations (2016) pointed out that fiscal policies and allocation of resources in the United Kingdom in recent years have contributed to ‘inequality in children’s enjoyment of their rights, disproportionately affecting children in disadvantaged situations’ (p.3). In particular, the introduction of universal credit and the imposition of a cap on the amount of benefits paid to poor familieshas contributed to an increase in the number of homeless households with dependent children in England and Northern Ireland, and the number of families in temporary accommodation in all four jurisdictions (p17). The report shares a concern that the rate of child poverty in the UK remains high and disproportionately affects children with disabilities, children living in a family or household with a person or persons with a disability (p.17), and the number of children with mental health needs is increasing (p.14).
The LGA have estimated that children’s services face £2bn funding shortfall by 2020. As I sit listening to the budget, I hope that Theresa May and her government will reaffirm their commitment to improving outcomes for children, young people and their families by investing in their future
What did you think of the budget? Do you think it will make a difference to children’s lives? Is the injection of £1.7 bn into universal credit payments enough? Is the raising of the personal tax allowance, and the increase to the National Living Wage by 4.9%, from £7.83 to £8.21 enough to improve the lives of lower-income families? Was there any extra funding for childcare? Education? Was there any specific mention of improving mental health for children?