A new report from the Department for Children Schools and Families finds that the majority of children and young people in the UK feel happy and safe, live in stable family environments, enjoy life, are doing well at school and make a positive contribution to their communities and society. But this is not the case for the 2.8 million children living in relative income poverty. This is 22 per cent of total children.
The report highlights the problems of low birth weight of babies born into poor families which can lead to impaired development and health problems in adult life. Children in poorer families are also more likely to suffer from respiratory infection, gastro-enteritis, dental caries and tuberculosis. Poverty can also affect the quality of a child’s diet. In terms of mental health, there is evidence that children from unskilled, working-class backgrounds are three times as likely to have a mental disorder as children from professional backgrounds.
Children of parents who have never worked or are long term unemployed are 13 times more likely to die from unintentional injury and 37 times more likely to die from exposure to fire. Children from lower socio economic groups are five times as likely to die in a pedestrian accident, and there are large socio-economic differences in death by homicide.
There is a strong correlation between levels of disadvantage and poor educational attainment. As children develop, poverty influences many outcomes but has a significant impact on educational achievement and the potential to acquire important non-cognitive skills. There is evidence that by the time children finish primary school, the effect of socio-economic status is more important than early ability at 22 months.
The report will be the foundation for the Government’s forthcoming Children’s Plan, due to be published in December.