Dr Max Davie, Officer for Health Improvement for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:
As doctors, we already see the impact of poverty on the frontline, with children arriving to appointments malnourished or suffering with mental health problems, so the proposed consultation of the Future Generations Wellbeing Act is reassuring to hear. Pledges to invest £26.8 million into the Healthy Start scheme is very welcome and something we as a College have long called for.
In addition, pledges to enshrine ‘health in all policies’ and ensuring public health services are fully funded and budgets ring-fenced are particularly encouraging, as spending on public health has been cut by 5%, meaning hundreds of thousands of pounds have been lost from the spending pot - this is money we can ill-afford.
We know that around 4 million children in the UK are affected by poverty and this number is expected to rise to 5 million by 2020. This is worrying, especially as there is no quick fix. That’s why in addition to these pledges by Labour, we want to see all parties commit to the restoration of binding national targets to reduce child poverty, backed by a national child poverty strategy, the reversal of cuts to universal credit and a reversal of public health cuts to ensure universal early years services, including health visiting and school nursing, are prioritised and supported financially. This must include additional targeted help for children and families experiencing poverty.