THE welfare of children in the UK has improved in a number of areas in recent years – yet it lags behind that of most of its European neighbours, a new report from UNICEF suggests.
In Report Card 11: Child well-being in rich countries, the children’s agency last week ranked the UK 16th of out 29 developed countries, up from 21st – last – place in 2007.
The Netherlands, followed by Norway and Iceland, topped the list, which was based on criteria of material well-being, health and safety, education, behaviour, and housing and environment for the year 2009-10. Romania, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United States were among the lowest-scoring countries.
The report revealed a declining incidence of youth obesity in the UK, falling from 15 per cent to ten per cent, and an increase in children’s satisfaction with their own lives.
Yet the UK had one of the highest alcohol-abuse rates – 20 per cent – among children aged between 11 and 15, as well as the highest rates of young people neither in education, employment, nor training; and fewer than 75 per cent of young people enter further education, compared with 80 per cent in other populous developed countries.
Commenting on the report, the Association of Christian Teachers (ACT) condemned the UK for “wasting huge amounts of UK talent” as children are “turned off” from pursuing education, thereby increasing dependency and welfare costs.
The Director of Strategy at ACT, Clive Ireson, urged members of the public and churches to support their local schools’ care for pupils. “It is time for politicians of all parties to stop meddling, allow some stability for the education system, and to realise that the ‘whole’ child needs to be educated,” he said.
Last week, a study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that nine out of ten children in the UK are happy with their lives.
Measuring National Well-being – Children’s well-being 2013, which summarised responses from “Children to Youth” questionnaires attached to household surveys since 2009, found that 89 per cent of the children surveyed were “relatively happy” with their lives as a whole. Four per cent said that they were unhappy.
Young people aged ten to 15 were questioned about how they felt about many aspects of their lives: schoolwork, appearance, family, friends, and school. Responses were recorded on a seven-point scale that ranged from “not at all happy” to “completely happy”.
The findings suggested that family, friends, school, and appearance mattered most to children.
The research director at the Children’s Society, Gwyther Rees, said that the report from the ONS confirmed much of what children had said in the Children’s Society’s Good Childhood Report 2012 ( News, 13 January 2012).
“Most children are happy, particularly with their relationships with family and friends,” he said. “But there are still hundreds of thousands of children who have low well-being, especially when it comes to their appearance and school. These are issues we need to take seriously.
This article was originally published by the Church Times.