Europe’s poorest children are suffering most from austerity measures, say researchers

Austerity policies across Europe are hitting poorest children worst and local authorities should do more to protect their rights, say researchers in Swansea

Championing children's rights in times of austerityThe Wales Observatory on Human Rights of Children and Young People, which is based at Swansea University, compiled a report based on evidence drawn from across Europe.

The Wales Observatory is urging local and regional authorities to act to protect children’s rights during the economic crisis.

“The poorest and most disadvantaged children are suffering disproportionately as a result of the cuts in social welfare, social programmes and public services,” said Dr Simon Hoffman (pictured) from the College of Law and Criminology, the author of the report.

“The situation is extremely troubling and action should be taken which is decisive and focused on children and children’s rights.”

In his report, Dr Hoffman, co-director of the Wales Observatory, said: “A sad reality is that the economic crisis and austerity measures have had a significant negative impact on children and children’s rights in many European States.

“Cutbacks are impacting on many social programmes affecting children and families. These include programmes providing welfare support, education, social services, housing and health care”.

The report says:

  • The effects of child poverty include poor educational outcomes and social integration, lower self-esteem and higher levels of stress, exploitation and abuse.
  • Cuts in health spending have affected children’s rights to enjoy the best possible health. Weakened mental health, substance abuse and suicide among children have been linked with austerity measures.
  • Poor children are increasingly likely to be forced into the labour market early to supplement household incomes.

The report, ‘Championing Children’s Rights in Times of Austerity’, has persuaded the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities to lobby governments to protect those rights during the economic crisis.

It recommends that local and regional authorities do all they can to embed children’s rights in everything they do. They are also urged to deliver child-friendly services, protect children in situations of increased vulnerability and tackle the impact of child poverty.

These authorities should assess the impact of their policies and budgets on children’s rights, introduce a systematic approach to collecting and using data on the subject and train and engage with civil society on children’s rights issues.

The report also urges authorities to ensure that children have adequate avenues for redress by providing channels for communication between children and their representatives and decision-makers.

“Local and regional authorities are responsible for key services that impact on children and their families, so they are well placed to safeguard children’s rights at times of economic crisis,” said Dr Hoffman.

“I am pleased the Council of Europe Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has adopted many of the recommendations in my report.

“I hope the Welsh Government and local authorities in Wales will take decisive action and act on these recommendations to protect children from the harm caused by cutbacks in public services.”