As we approach the UK’s review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on 18-19th May, Together is publishing a series of daily blogs to examine issues we want to see raised. Today we’re looking at issues around child poverty, health and the environment.
Child poverty is expected to be at the forefront of the UK’s review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. One in four children are now living in poverty, driven by benefits cuts and increasingly precarious employment. The majority of children living in poverty are in working families – families who are now facing an increasingly acute cost-of-living crisis, exposed to soaring inflation with little or nothing left to cut back on. Some children are at greater risk, including those in families affected by disability, single parent households, young mothers, households with a baby under one, larger families, Care Experienced children, minority ethnic households, and children with a family member in prison. There is considerable evidence that children affected by poverty have the poorest health outcomes. Without urgent action at UK and devolved level, the percentage of children living in poverty is predicted to reach 38% by 2030.
What have children and young people said?
“Although children have a right to food, not all children in Scotland have enough food.” (MCP)
In their report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, members of Children’s Parliament (MCPs) and the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYPs) raised serious concerns around the impact of poverty on children’s right to food. They said that many children and young people didn’t have enough nutritious or healthy food or a dignified choice of what to eat. They were concerned at the number of children reliant on food banks or charities for their meals and the stigma and shame that many children felt. MCPs and MSYPs want to see a UN recommendation that Scottish Government should make healthy and nutritious food less expensive and more accessible and that free school meals should be extended to all pupils, as well as support for those who are not in school.
MCPs and MSYPs also spoke about the related impact of the cost-of-living crisis on children’s mental health and that more needed to be done to both support children with mental health issues but also to prevent poor mental health. Ideas included more activities, clubs and places to relax with friends. The MCPs and MSYPs want the UN Committee to ask Scottish Government what it is doing to reduce waiting times for mental health services and to help children access support in the local community.
A further challenge to mental health that MCPs and MSYPs spoke about was climate change. They called for greater opportunities for children to be involved in decisions about their environment at local and national level and that urgency should never be a reason to bypass children and young people’s right to be heard.
“People often talk about how ‘young people are the future!’, but neglect to acknowledge that we are right here in this moment, watching our planet being picked apart – and we do not want any role in this future that is being built on our behalf.” (MSYP)
What have our members said?
Together’s 2023 State of Children’s Rights Report highlighted key concerns raised by our members, including the impacts of welfare reform, the cost of the school day, rising homelessness, insecure private tenancies and poor housing.
As we approach the UK’s examination later this week, our member Children’s Health Scotland shared their thoughts and views:
“The poorest children of our society have the worst health outcomes and many go hungry. The cost-of- living-crisis affects the poorest children the most. We must take a rights-based approach to equality to allow ALL Scottish children their right to freedom from hunger and enable them to achieve better health.” – Children’s Health Scotland.
We hope to see the UN Committee pick up on these issues during Thursday and Friday’s review – particularly those issues raised by children and young people. Make sure you follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to keep up-to-date with the review.
Stay tuned for our next article on children’s rights to education, leisure and cultural activities coming out at 08:00am tomorrow!