Spending promises not enough to reverse 'shocking levels of poverty and unhappiness' facing UK's children

(Photo: Unsplash/Ben Wicks)

The Children's Society has warned that spending plans announced by the Government this week do not go far enough to reverse the "shocking levels of poverty and unhappiness" affecting the UK's children. 

The charity welcomed the promise of new funding for councils, schools, youth centres and the NHS, as well as the continued funding of the Troubled Families programme, an intervention scheme to help families affected by problems like crime, domestic abuse or anti-social behaviour. 

However, it said that after a decade of cuts, the latest plans were "sticking plasters which fall well short of addressing the deep-rooted challenges facing children and families". 

"Children are facing shocking levels of poverty and unhappiness, and serious risks including exploitation, knife crime and mental ill-health, but these announcements do not go nearly far enough in ensuring public services are equipped to prevent and tackle these issues," said Sam Royston, Director of Policy and Research at The Children's Society. 

He blamed the freeze on benefits and tax credits for the "scandal" of more than four million children living in poverty in the UK and said it was "hugely disappointing" that while Chancellor Sajid Javid declared the "end of austerity", no new funds have been made available to provide emergency financial support for families. 

Mr Javid announced an additional £2bn in Brexit funding on Wednesday to smooth Britain's departure from the EU, but the money does not cover the provision of emergency financial assistance to families least able to weather the shock of a no-deal Brexit.  

Other spending promises announced by the Chancellor include a cash increase for the NHS of £33.9bn over the next five years, and a further £1.5bn for social care.

Secondary schools have been promised at least £5,000 per pupil over the next two years, while every primary school is to receive £4,000 per pupil by 2021-22.

Mr Royston said it was uncertain how much vulnerable children would benefit from the latest spending round.

"While we welcome the new money for social care, it's unclear how much will reach children's services, where years of funding cuts have left councils struggling to provide vital preventative help like children's centres, youth services and support for children affected by substance misuse or domestic abuse," he said.

"Councils urgently need a long-term funding commitment to address the estimated £3bn shortfall facing children's services by 2025 and help prevent thousands more children reaching crisis point.

"With our new research showing children are at their unhappiest for a decade, we want the Government to move beyond disparate announcements affecting children and commit to a long-term plan to measure and improve children's well-being in all areas of their lives."