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UK near bottom of child well-being league table

Date:22 APR 2009

The Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) has published a briefing drawn from a new league table of child well-being in European countries, in which the UK comes in 24th place out of 29 countries.

Ahead of today's Budget, CPAG, along with over 150 organisations in the Campaign to End Child Poverty, is calling for the Chancellor to invest at least £3 billion in benefits and tax credits for low income families to ensure the 2010 target to halve child poverty is met.

The league table of child well-being in 29 European countries was produced by researchers from the University of York.

The Netherlands comes top of the table, followed by Norway and Sweden. The UK came well below countries of similar affluence, with only Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta doing worse.

Commenting on the research CPAG Chief Executive, Kate Green, said: "The last time a child well-being league table was published, British people were shocked the UK came last. This time we need a frank focus on why other countries are doing so much better for their children. Public resolve and political action to put children first are more important than another round of hand-wringing.

"Government action like Sure Start, child tax credit and the children's plan will already be making a difference, but more is needed. All political parties must pledge to direct more of our national resources towards making children's lives better.

"We cannot afford a 'do nothing' budget for children. The report shows a clear link between high levels of child well-being and low levels of child poverty. If we fail to protect families during the downturn, progress on child well-being could go into reverse."

The data mostly comes from 2006 and provides a snapshot, rather than a trend. This time difference means that some Government policy initiatives are not reflected in the University of York's findings.

In response to the report, the Children's Minister, Beverley Hughes said: "As the Child Poverty Action Group acknowledges, this report does not take into consideration any of the wide ranging improvements made in children and young people's services in the last four years.

"We have already made significant progress on improving quality of life for children in this country. We have established almost 3,000 children's centres, provided free early years education for three and four year olds, allocated £235 million for children's play areas, £770 million in services and support for disabled children, and £190 million for world class places for young people to spend their free time. Through these measures and more we have continually raised levels of attainment and the quality of life for children across the country.

"Our record demonstrates our long-standing values and commitment to tackling child poverty."