Austerity threatening child welfare in UK, report warns

The UK has risen up the rankings in child wellbeing but austerity is casting a shadow over the future of the nation's children, a new Unicef report warns.

The Netherlands came first in the list of 29 developed countries. Britain moved up from bottom place in 2007 to 16th.

The report considered five factors: material wellbeing, health and safety, education, behaviours and risks, and housing and environment.

The UK performed poorly in some areas, ranking 29th in access to further education, 27th in teenage pregnancy, and 24th for youth unemployment.

During the assessment period, the report found that 10% of 15 to 19-year-olds were not in education, employment, or training.

The UK also has one of the highest rates of alcohol consumption among teenagers, with around one in five 11 to 15-year-olds reporting they have been drunk at least twice.

However, the UK rose from 16th place in the last report to 11th place in how children rated their own satisfaction, with more than 85% of British children saying they had a high level of overall life satisfaction.

There was also a fall in levels of child obesity, from more than 15% to just over 10%.

Unicef said more investment in young people was needed to prevent a reverse in the improvements.

Anita Tiessen, deputy executive director of Unicef UK, said: "There is no doubt that the situation for children and young people has deteriorated in the last three years, with the Government making policy choices that risk setting children back in their most crucial stages of development.

"With the UK ranking at the bottom, or near the bottom, of the league table on teenage pregnancy and young people not in education, employment or training, we know that many are facing a bleaker future.

"While children and young people will be the first to bear the brunt if we fail to safeguard their well-being, over time society as a whole will pay the price."

The Netherlands were followed by Norway, Iceland, Finland and Sweden. Others in the top 10 included Germany, Switzerland and Ireland.

France (13th), the Czech Republic (14th) and Portugal (15th) all came ahead of the UK. The bottom third of countries included Italy (22nd), Greece (25th) and the US (26th). Romania was in last place.