The cost of living crisis endangers children’s rights

As we approach Challenge Poverty Week on 3 – 9th October, our Policy and Communications Intern, Judi Martin, reflects on the cost of living crisis and its impact on children’s human rights.

The cost of living crisis will have frightening consequences for children’s human rights without UK and devolved governments’ urgent and adequate intervention.

Rising household costs and the impact on low income families is extreme. In the Living without a Lifeline Report, One Parent Families Scotland (OPFS) carried out a recent survey of 260 single parents, which revealed that 61.1% of participants were finding it either extremely difficult to afford or could no longer afford electricity, and 43.7% said the same about food. Strikingly, 78% of the participants were in work and the same percentage in receipt of a social security benefit, showing that social security is not enough to survive. The impact of poverty on children’s rights is clear – from their right to an adequate standard of living, to health rights, education and play.

While the Scottish Government has committed to widening eligibility for the Scottish Child Payment to under 16s and increasing the payment by 5 pounds a week from November, this small sum may not be enough to alleviate the struggle these families are experiencing. OPFS has recommended that the Scottish Government also uprate Scotland’s 8 social security payments by the rate of inflation – 10% in August 2022 and predicted by the Bank of England to hit 13.3% in October – and to widen eligibility for school clothing grants and free school meals, among other actions. Furthermore, OPFS is calling on the UK Government to introduce progressive tax measures to reduce inequality and to introduce emergency interventions to tackle the immediate cost-of-living crisis for low-income families.

Food and energy costs are not the only financial hurdle low income families face this Autumn. According to the Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, the cost of the school day continues to be a financial barrier to accessing education, and uniform represents one of the most significant costs. Unlike England and Wales, Scotland does not yet have any national guidance on school uniform to regulate costs and ensure affordability. A consultation is currently underway with the deadline for responses being 14th October 2022.

The UNCRC says all children have the right to an adequate standard of living (Article 27). Related, Article 26 states that children and families have the right to receive financial support from the government in order to fulfil this right. Greater government intervention is needed in order to uphold the UNCRC and further protect children’s rights against the damaging effects of the cost of living crisis.

On Wednesday 5th October, Together will be holding a webinar on Children’s Health and Standard of Living with a focus on child poverty. This webinar is part of a series to gather evidence for our next report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. Please come along to share experiences and case studies from your own practice to help inform our report. The event is open to everyone – including professionals, parents/carers and interested individuals. We will make every effort to ensure the space is safe and inclusive for all!

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