Reduce health inequalities

Data consistently show that poverty and inequality impact a child’s whole life, affecting their education, housing and social environment and in turn impacting their health outcomes.

Our State of Child Health indicators reveal a widening gap between the health of children from wealthy and deprived backgrounds.

UK Governments should act to tackle the causes of poverty and reduce variation to ensure all children have the best start to life, wherever they are.

UK Government should introduce a cross-departmental National Child Health and Wellbeing Strategy to address and monitor child poverty and health inequalities. The Strategy should:

  • Adopt a ‘child health in all policies’ approach to decision-making and policy development, with HM Treasury measuring and disclosing the projected impact of the Chancellor’s annual budget statement on child poverty and inequality. The Government should also collect adequate data to ensure all Departments can consider the impact of policies on child health as accurately as possible.
  • Reintroduce national targets to reduce child poverty rates and introduce specific health inequality targets for key areas of child health. Specific Government departments should be responsible and accountable to deliver targets set. The Department for Work and Pensions in particular should undertake a review into the impact of recent welfare changes on child poverty and inequality.
  • Provide funding for a child health workforce, that meets demand, and ensures children and young people receive the best possible care.
  • Include a specific focus for the first 1,000 days of life.

We welcome existing commitments to reduce child poverty and health inequalities. To expand on these, Scottish Government should:

  • Action all measures contained in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act and ensure these actions are appropriately resourced and funded, enabling the interim and 2030 targets to be met on time.
  • Publish the Children and Young People’s Health and Wellbeing Outcomes Framework without delay, to compliment the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act.
  • The Child Poverty (Scotland) Act progress reports should include the views of children and young people in how these actions impact the UNCRC.

Welsh Government should acknowledge high child poverty rates, review existing programmes and publish a revised Strategy to reduce child poverty.

  • The Strategy should provide national targets to reduce child poverty rates and specific health inequality targets for key areas of child health, with clear accountability across Government.

We welcome publication of the Children and Young People’s Strategy (2019-2029), which sets out how living in poverty can impact their potential to be healthy, their ability to learn and achieve maximum wellbeing. To meet these aims, Northern Ireland Executive should:

  • Achieve the outcomes in the overarching Children and Young People’s Strategy (2019-2029) and expedite the development of the associated delivery plan.
  • Prioritise publication of a successor strategy to the Child Poverty Strategy to continue to monitor the impact of poverty and target intervention where it is needed most. It is encouraging that this strategy is identified in the New Decade, New Approach document as an underpinning strategy for the new Programme for Government.