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Cutting away at our children's futures


Cutting away at our chilren's futures report coverHow austerity is affecting the health of children, young people and families

The 2016 review of our Growing Up in the UK report shows little has changed to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people in the UK since 2013, with many of the original findings still ringing true today.

A contributing factor towards these findings is the government’s cuts to benefits and services across the country in recent years. In light of this, we have produced a report focusing on the impact of austerity and welfare reforms on children, young people and families.

Our review demonstrates the following:

  • the impact of this current period of austerity has been more detrimental to children than to many other groups

  • this impact is reiterated by the findings of international reports which reveal a strong relationship between the impact of the recession on national economies and a decline in children’s wellbeing since 2008

  • the cumulative and devastating effects on children, young people and families due to the increases in the cost of living, cuts to services and benefits including disability living allowance, housing and child benefits, plus a £12 billion cut to annual welfare spending announced in the 2015 budget, to be implemented by 2019-2020

  • how austerity measures, in conjunction with long-term effects of the recession such as income poverty, have contributed to increases in the number of children living in poverty

  • how vulnerable groups of children continue to be some of the worst affected by cuts to services - including children with disabilities, refugee and asylum seeker children, and children suffering from poor mental health

Download the review


  • Key findings from our review

    • 2.6 million children in the UK live in absolute poverty, and children are at higher risk of living in both relative and absolute low income than the overall UK population (Department for Work and Pensions). Child poverty is also predicted to increase between 2016-2020 (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

    • Almost half (44%) of the severely materially deprived children in 30 European countries in 2012 lived in three countries: Italy (16%), Romania (14%) and the UK (14%) (UNICEF)

    • Children born into poverty suffer an increased risk of mortality in the first year of life and in adulthood, they are more likely to be born early and small, and they face more health problems later in life (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

    • The resulting severe economic hardship from the financial crisis in the UK, including lowered household income, and consequent spending cuts, have been disproportionately detrimental to children, young people and low income families, and in particular those who were already at a disadvantage such as migrant children and lone parent families (Joseph Rowntree, Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights)

    • A couple with two children would need to work 58 hours a week at the minimum wage to lift themselves out of poverty (Child Poverty Action Group)

    • Eviction and homelessness are on the rise, and over the last five years, the number of rented households in England and Wales who were evicted has more than trebled, and poorer households are around four times as likely to spend a third or more of their income on housing, as households with average incomes (Joseph Rowntree)

    • Employment does not provide guaranteed protection for families against poverty - 58% of materially deprived children now live in a family where at least one parent is working (Institute for Fiscal Studies)

    • More than two-thirds of 2,000 parents interviewed in Britain say they have struggled with the cost of school, half said they had cut back on clothing, food or heating to afford school costs, and a quarter of parents said they had borrowed money in order to afford the cost of school (The Children’s Society)

    • The UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights, All Party Parliamentary Group on Health in All Policies, and the United Nations have all expressed deep concerns relating to the effects of UK welfare reforms on children who are vulnerable and at risk. Some of their primary concerns are about: the resulting increases in child poverty; lowered household income for already struggling families; and violation of rights to social security and an adequate standard of living by disadvantaged and marginalised groups including women, children, persons with disabilities, low-income families and families with two or more children