Report from leading British charity blames ‘failure of political will’ as it finds poor children have fewer life chance.
Britain risks “sleepwalking into a world where inequality becomes so entrenched that our children grow up in a state of social apartheid”, according to a leading charity.
In a damning report to be published next week, the National Children’s Bureau finds that, in many respects, child poverty is now a bigger problem than during the 1960s, when it carried out a seminal study, Born to Fail?.
The report compares aspects of children’s lives today to data from the Born to Fail? cohort study of 11-year-olds, carried out in 1969. It finds that significantly more children are growing up in relative poverty today – 3.6 million compared with 2 million – and claims that these children suffer “devastating consequences throughout their lives”.
It adds: “Today, although there have been some improvements, overall the situation appears to be no better, and in some respects has got worse.”
The report finds that:
- A child from a disadvantaged background is still far less likely to achieve a good level of development at four than a child from a more privileged home.
- Children living in deprived areas are much more likely to be the victim of an unintentional injury or accident in the home.
- Children from the poorest areas are nine times less likely than those living in affluent areas to have access to green space, places to play and to live in environments with better air quality.
- Boys living in deprived areas are three times more likely to be obese than boys growing up in affluent areas, and girls are twice as likely.
“Our analysis shows that, despite some improvements, the inequality and disadvantage suffered by poorer children 50 years ago still persists today,” said Dr Hilary Emery, the bureau’s chief executive.
“There is a real risk that our society is sleepwalking into a world where children grow up in a state of social apartheid, with poor children destined to experience hardship and disadvantage just by accident of birth, and their more affluent peers unaware of their existence.”
The report warns that Britain could become a place in which “children’s lives are so polarised that rich and poor live in separate, parallel worlds”.