Britain’s young people face a bleak future, according to a new Unicef report, which places the UK in 16th position in a table reflecting child wellbeing across the world’s richest nations. Its findings suggest austerity is a false economy.
Though 16th position is an improvement – Britain came bottom of 21 developed countries in 2007 – the children’s charity says the position here is set to worsen significantly as cuts to children’s services begin to bite under the coalition government’s austerity drive.
The report, Report Card 11, ranks the UK below Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Portugal, and says Britain performs particularly badly on young people aged 15 to 19, with high rates of teenage pregnancy and Neets (teenagers not in education, employment or training).
The UK also has one of the highest alcohol abuse rates among 11- to 15-year-olds.
Report Card 11 also shows that cuts to services for young people are having a negative effect. The Department for Education’s 2011-12 budget has been cut by more than £300m – 26% – on the previous year, with a consequent 400,000 rise in the number of children in poverty over the next four years.
Unicef deputy executive director for communications and programmes, Anita Tiessen, said: “With the UK ranking near the bottom of the league table on teenage pregnancy and Neets, we know that many face a bleaker future.
“The government needs to acknowledge this and act now. 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.”