Commissioners warn of poverty’s ‘devastating’ impact on children’s rights

30 September 2022

As Children’s Commissioners for Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, it is our job to promote and protect children’s rights in our respective nations.

Poverty has a devastating effect on children’s ability to experience their rights. We are deeply concerned about the current cost of living crisis, which comes at a time when 3.9 million children across the UK are already living in poverty. Poverty is the most significant human rights issue facing children across the UK. Poverty severely affects all aspects of a child’s life, impacting on their human rights to life and development, to adequate standard of living, to mental and physical health, to education, to socialise and participate in society

Children have told us that they feel poverty robs them of their childhood, but this is not inevitable. We cannot accept children going hungry, being cold and unable to learn and function as a normal part of our society. This is having a disproportionate impact on those children whose rights are already most at risk.

Living in poverty does not simply affect children’s experience during childhood, it also frequently curtails the life chances available to them as adults, feeding the relentless cycle of intergenerational poverty and undermining social cohesion.

The UK and devolved governments must use all available resources to the maximum extent possible to ensure children’s rights. Every Government must take a children’s rights based approach to how it monitors and responds to this crisis over the coming months. We must see deliberate and targeted action to mitigate the impact on children and their ability to access and experience their rights.

We call on the UK and devolved governments to urgently:

  • Increase the income of families in poverty, through child payments, and increase take up of those who are entitled to support
  • Reform the social security system, review thresholds for support and remove punitive benefit caps
  • Reduce the costs to families, particularly the costs associated with education and debt to public authorities
  • Target interventions to families in vulnerable situations and ensure families have access to high quality affordable childcare