UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Tackling child poverty - What kind of society do we want?

If you can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens, you have to wonder what it says about ours that nearly four million of our children – one in three - are living in poverty.

The UK has one of the worst rates of child poverty in the industrialised world. In a recession children are more likely to experience severe poverty and our children have now replaced our pensioners as the group most at risk of living in poverty. http://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/

At a seminar recently entitled, “The State of Children’s Rights in Scotland” organised by Together (formerly the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights), Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner identified a number of overarching issues which will underpin his term of office. These were child poverty, early years and the public service cuts, which historically have impacted disproportionately on services to our children.

But child poverty is not just a matter for Children’s Commissioners. It is an issue which should concern us, all as trade unionists and as citizens.

Despite the Con Dem Government’s stated commitment to ending child poverty by 2020, child poverty campaigners have shown that its current policies are set to worsen child poverty, and whilst the numbers of children living in poverty had been reducing since a high in 1999, the government has missed its target of cutting child poverty by half by 2010. http://www.jrf.org.uk/child-poverty

Why? Because this Government, like previous governments, does not invest sufficiently in measures that would lift our children out of poverty. The 18 millionaires in the Cabinet fail to understand the devastating effect that living in poverty has on the lives of our children or the impact that poverty has on our economy, estimated to cost around £25billion a year. In a nutshell, they fail to prioritise our children. http://www.cpag.org.uk/povertyfacts/#impact

Instead the ConDem’s ideologically driven programme of public service and welfare cuts will further increase inequality, making the poor poorer and the rich very much richer.

This year, the Banks are paying out £6billion in bonuses, and that is them being restrained. Think what that money could do to end child poverty.

And Bob Diamond, CEO of Barclays will be paid £9million this year. £9million! What can one person do with that that sort of money, and how can he bring himself to take it when so many of our children are living in households that can barely afford food and heating, whose life chances are reduced from birth and who will die on average seven years sooner than their better off counterparts?

So, I find it hard to dredge up much sympathy for the poor old bankers who are having to flee the UK for Switzerland to avoid paying the very taxes that would help take our children out of poverty.

The time has come for us to think very carefully about the kind of society we want to live in. A society that prioritises the health, well-being and life chances of all our children or a society which protects the wealth and opportunity of the privileged few?

Kate Ramsden
Aberdeenshire UNISON