Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Children’s Commissioner warns that UK is now in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

In February last year, I wrote an article about Conservative attitudes towards poverty that entail a victim-blame narrative. It was written at a time that the government were developing “better measures of child poverty” to provide a “more accurate reflection of the reality of child poverty.”

According to the Tory-led Coalition, poverty isn’t caused through a lack of income. Iain Duncan Smith is responsible for this outrageous nugget of calculated, preemptive denial. Because the government knew in advance what the consequences of the austerity cuts would be: a massive increase in inequality and poverty. 

I concluded in the article that the grossly discriminatory austerity cuts breached the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
And they do.

As Chancellor George Osborne,prepares to release his mid-term (Autumn) budget statement, the government’s Children’s Commissioner for England has published a report criticizing the Coalition’s austerity policies, which have reduced the incomes of the poorest families by up to 10 percent since 2010.

The commissioner added that the increasing inequality which has resulted from the cuts, in particular, the welfare reforms, means that Britain is now in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects children from the adverse effects of government economic measures.

Austerity cuts are disproportionately targeted at the poorest.

Dr Maggie Atkinson, the Commissioner, said: “Nobody is saying that there isn’t a deficit to close.  Our issue is that at the moment, it is the poorest in society who have least to fall back on that are paying the greatest price for trying to close that deficit. It is patently unfair. It is patently against the rights of the child.”

Atkinson says that this means that the UK has broken the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, under which each country is obliged to protect children from the detrimental consequences of economic policies. The Commissioner condemned the government for placing undue financial pressures on poorer parents, despite being one of the most developed countries in the world.

“The basic fact is that there are families living in the fifth-biggest economy in the Western world who are making choices about whether they can afford to heat their house or feed their children,” she said.

“We need as a nation to decide whether we are in the business of making the poorest pay the highest penalty when there is a gap between what the country has in its coffers and what its expenses are.”

The Commissioner’s report found that the government cuts have led to the UK infringing upon Articles 3, 6, 18, 23, 24, 26, 27 and 31 of the Convention. These Articles guarantee children the right to life, development, health, social security and leisure...