BMA report

Cutting away at our children’s futures: how austerity is affecting the health of children, young people and families

A report focusing on the impact of austerity and welfare reforms on children, young people and families.

Location: UK
Audience: Public health doctors
Updated: Thursday 26 August 2021
Topics: Population health
Public Health Article Illustration

What you will get from this report

  • Findings from 2016 which demonstrate how austerity measures, together with long-term effects of the recession such as income poverty, have contributed to increases in the number of children living in poverty.
  • Findings which demonstrate 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.


Key findings

  • 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).
  • 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).
  • International context
  • Austerity and welfare reforms in the UK
  • Impact of the Welfare Reform and Work Act 2016
  • UN criticisms of UK welfare reforms
  • Child poverty targets
  • Recent child poverty trends
  • Poverty by region and country
  • Effects of poverty on the daily lives of children
  • Poverty and school
  • Impact of budget cuts on Sure Start Children’s Centres in England
  • Vulnerable children
  • Children with disabilities
  • Children and young people with mental health conditions
  • Conclusion and actions