UN slams Britain’s child poverty levels

The United Nations has criticised the government for failing the UK’s poorest children as inequality widens across the country.

Children from deprived backgrounds are more likely to do badly at school, be taken into care or die at a younger age, according to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Despite welcoming the forthcoming legislation to help the government achieve its commitment to end child poverty by 2020, economic hardship remains a “very serious problem affecting all parts of the United Kingdom”, the committee said.

The third periodic assessment on Britain’s progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child comes less than a fortnight after Gordon Brown unveiled a raft of family-centred policies aimed at promoting equality at the Labour Party conference.

Monitoring violence

The UN committee also called for an end to antisocial behaviour orders for young people, and criticised local authorities for failing to ensure the well-being of looked-after children.

Schemes to improve outcomes for young people in care still suffer from a lack of capacity, and there is no mechanism for monitoring violence against looked-after children or young victims of domestic violence.

The report reflected many of the concerns raised by the UK’s four children’s commissioners when they reported on the state of children’s rights in June.

The committee agreed that the deaths of six children in custody since the last report in 2002 were concerning.


On the attitudes towards young people, urgent measures were needed to “address the intolerance and inappropriate characterisation of children”, it said.

The committee welcomed the UK government’s removal of its reservations towards article 37 of the UN convention on children in custody and towards article 22 on asylum-seeking children.

Ian Johnston, chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers, said the report should act as a reminder that all social work intervention should only be in the interests of the children in question.

Beverley Hughes, the UK children’s minister, was pleased at the recognition of the “significant progress” made, and promised to give the recommendations “the careful consideration they deserve”.

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Expert guide to children’s services

External information

UK Children’s commissioners report – June 2008

Children’s Plan

UN Committee on the Rights of the Child

British Association of Social Workers – official homepage

Children’s Rights Alliance for England

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