United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights - consultation response

In 2018 we responded to the visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights in the UK. Our submission focused on certain questions asked, including the extent of child poverty in the UK and how its evolved, the implications and whether government response has been effective.

See more information in the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner report.

Our response

  • Both relative and absolute poverty have been increasing in the UK. In 2015-16 the number of children living in relative poverty (after housing costs) increased to 4 million, an increase of 100,000 from the year 2013-14. The Institute for Fiscal Studies predicts that this will increase to a record 5.2 million by 2021-22. Absolute child poverty is set to increase by 3% by 2021.
  • The poverty gap in the UK is affecting the health of the nation's infants, children and young people, with those from the most deprived backgrounds experiencing much worse health than those from the most affluent. It is estimated that child poverty costs the country £1.5 billion per year through the need for increased acute health care.
  • Poverty doesn’t just have an effect on children’s overall health; it also results in poorer children who are sick or disabled being less like to get the care and support they need. Fear of losing a job or a paid day's work means some parents are less likely to attend regular appointments.
  • The four-year freeze on support for children under universal credit has the largest impact and will reduce children’s benefits by around 12% by 2020, affecting approximately 7.5 million children. The two-child limit for universal credit and tax credit is particularly regressive and will lead to an additional 200,000 children in poverty. Some low income families will lose £2,780 per year for every child beyond their second, which will contribute to a 2% rise in absolute poverty for tax credits alone.

Our recommendations

  • Governments must introduce comprehensive programmes to reduce child poverty. They should restore the binding of national targets to reduce child poverty, backed by a national child poverty strategy. 
  • Governments should reverse cuts to universal credit that will leave the majority of families claiming this benefit worse off.
  • Governments should be providing good quality, safe and effective prevention and care throughout the public health and healthcare service with a particular focus on primary care in order to mediate the adverse health effects of poverty.
  • Governments should be supporting the continued recording of income-based measures of poverty so that trends and impacts of service provision can be meaningfully assessed, with a focus on achieving a target of less than 10% of children experiencing relative low-income poverty.

We respond to a wide range of consultations to ensure that the College’s position, and ultimately children’s health, is represented. Members can get involved in current consultations by contacting the Health Policy team: health.policy@rcpch.ac.uk.