The Child Poverty Action Group has published a report today in which the UK is accused of being among the worst places in Europe to be a child on a range of measures. For example, the UK comes 24th out of 29 countries when it comes to the assessment of birth-weight; it’s 21st when it comes to children’s subjective assessment of their own wellbeing. In other fields, things aren’t quite so bad – “the UK does quite well on health behaviours”, but, nevertheless, “it scores badly on immunisation rates for key childhood diseases.”
Now, of course, this has to be taken in context. Just because the UK is towards the foot of a given table, it doesn’t follow that the situation is bad. In any rank-ordering, someone has to come last. The guy who finishes last in the final of the Olympic 100m sprint isn’t, by virtue of his place, a poor runner. The same applies here: “worst” does not imply “bad” or even “getting worse”. Children in the UK are, on the whole, probably better off in many if not all respects than were their parents and grandparents.
On the other hand, though, it is a bit worrying that, in terms of health, the UK is ranked only slightly better than Romania and Malta. Nothing against Romania and Malta, of course – but the UK is significantly wealthier, and so one might reasonably expect health differentials to be greater.
The report’s only 11 pages long, and it’s well worth a read. It’s also interesting to have a look at how its findings are reported in the media – just as a hint, and based on a fairly cursory survey, the more conservative the outlet, the more grudging and distorted the reportage. After all, the report comes out in favour of higher public spending and refuses to condemn single mothers. That doesn’t really fit in with the Broken Britain mantra, does it?